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Archive for October, 2018

2019 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Ready For Your Driveway.

Ford‘s 2019 Mustang range has had the EcoBoost engine added and it comes with extra spice. Sitting alongside the grunty 5.0L GT, the EcoBoost offers more torque than the previously available version. There’s also a new, optional, ten speed auto with paddle shift, extra safety features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking, the updated exterior, and a B&O sound system with 12 speakers with a total power of 1000 Watts. Warranty is now up to five years.
The fuel injected alloy engine with twin scroll turbo produces 224kW and a ripping 441 Nm of torque. That compares favourably on a kW/Nm per litre factor when looking at the 5.0L’s figures of 339kW and 556Nm. Standard transmission is a six speed auto. The turbo has been tuned to deliver a beautifully smooth torque curve which enhances the overall driveability. Strength and durability comes from forged conrods, lightweight pistons with steel rings, and variable valve timing for better upper end performance.
The interior features a new 12.4 inch instrument cluster that is heavily customisable thanks to a large involvement from ex games developers. Three modes are available, being Normal, Sport, and Track with adjustable layouts and colours. A new memory function, Mustang MyMode, allows a driver to set drive settings, steering preferences, and exhaust note preferences. A brand new active exhaust features four distinct modes, being Normal, Track, Sport, and Quiet. An electronic control system enables the note to suit the drive mode and rev range, and there is even Track Apps to allow the recording of data for analysis.Ride and handling prowess has been upped thanks to new shock absorbers, and a new cross-axis joint for the rear suspension provides a higher level of lateral stiffness for extra stability. Redesigned stabiliser bars also factor in the increased handling capability. Magnetic damping has now been provided as an option. With an adjustment speed of up to 1000 times a second, the Ford MagneRide suspension was previously available in the Shelby GT350.
More tech for the Mustang EcoBoost comes from the Ford DAT, or Driver Assist Technology. Pedestrian Detection technology partners with Autonomous Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, plus Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keeping Assist. Auto high beam and auto levelling headlights are also on board. Ford’s renowned SYNC3 interface is standard on the EcoBoost and features Emergency Assist which will dial emergency services should the car’s telematics detect a crash has occurred. There’s an eight inch full colour display, reverse camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The EcoBoost will be available in the two body shapes, Convertible and Fastback, complete with reprofiled bonnet and grille for a harder. edgier, look. LED headlights are standard across the Mustang range, along with tri-bar daytime running lights. The LED taillights feature a revamped design, as do the bumpers, and there are black painted 19 inch alloys. Brembo supply the brakes. Inside the materials have been updated for a higher quality look and feel, with a new “spun alloy” llok for the dash panel.
Complete with a five year warranty the 2019 Mustang range starts from $49,990 (manufacturer’s list price) for the Fastback manual, $52,990 (MLP) for the Fastback auto, with $59,490 being the MLP for the EcoBoost convertible auto. The 2019 Mustang range including the EcoBoost is available from Ford dealers now.

Hyundai and Caltex Offer Fuel Savings

In a time where fuel costs seem uncontrollable in their rise, Hyundai and Caltex have come together to offer a deal where a an app-coupon will save four cents per litre at up to 120 litres per day. The combination works with 665 Caltex service stations offering the discount to buyers and drivers of selected Hyundai vehicles from October 15, 2018.

Hyundai Auto Link Bluetooth and Hyundai Auto Link Premium are required and the current generation i30, Kona, Tucson, and Santa Fe should have these fitted. For customers who wish to claim the fuel discount, it is as simple as downloading or updating their Hyundai Auto Link app, logging in using MyHyundai, and presenting the QR code (available in the Coupon section) at a participating Caltex service stations. The app itself will locate the nearest participating Caltex station by opening the Hyundai Auto Link app and tapping on the Caltex icon.

The fuel discount covers diesel, Caltex Vortex Premium 98, Vortex Premium 95, Vortex Premium Diesel, standard unleaded, E10, and standard diesel.

Hyundai Auto Link Bluetooth presents a multitude of information, including:

Driving Information – Displays current distance, current travel time, today’s distance, today’s travel time, fuel efficiency, and fuel consumption
Tyre Pressure Monitoring – Displays the individual pressure of each tyre on the vehicle – if the tyre pressure is not within tolerance of the recommended pressure, the tyre pressure will be displayed in red
Driving History – Provides the owner’s driving history including arrival time, maximum speed, average speed, average fuel efficiency, fuel consumption, rapid acceleration and hard braking events, distance and travel time
Crowd comparison – Allows the user to compare their efficient driving with other owners
Parking Management – Provides parked vehicle location and parking time reminders
RSA (Roadside assistance) – Allows the user to contact RSA directly
Statistics (ECO Driving) – Provides statistics of the user’s driving pattern – results can be viewed either daily, weekly or monthly
Statistics (Speed) – Provides statistics for the vehicle’s speed pattern
Vehicle Health Check – Checks the vehicle’s status and, if a problem is detected, it can connect the phone to Hyundai Customer Care Team
Vehicle Health Report – Provides a vehicle health report (listed in date order)
Maintenance – Tracks the wear of consumable parts and provides service reminders
Hyundai Dealer Network – Displays dealer information on the map and allows the user to select their preferred dealer
Message Box – A messaging system to allow contact from user’s preferred Hyundai dealer or Hyundai Customer Care Team
Map – Provides your current or searched locations on a map
myHyundai – Hyundai Auto Link is linked with the user’s myHyundai website to provide them with convenient functions for their vehicle.

Hyundai Auto Link Premium

Highlander variants offer Hyundai Auto Link Premium (SIM module) as standard. Hyundai Auto Link Premium is also available as an optional accessory on all compatible push-button start Hyundai vehicles for $495 (incl. GST).

Hyundai Auto Link Premium includes previously available Hyundai Auto Link Bluetooth® features, with the addition of new advanced convenience and comfort features.
Hyundai Auto Link Premium (SIM) features:

Remote engine start and stop from smartphone
Remote control of door locking and unlocking, climate control temperature and defroster
Remote activation of hazard lights and horn
Sets geo-fencing alerts
Sends emergency alert messages upon vehicle accident

Contact your local Hyundai dealer for more information.
(With thanks to Hyundai Australia)

MG Circles The Octagon With The NBL.

MG Motor Australia has pulled off what could be the world’s first motor and round ball sports coup. Australia’s National Basketball League, or NBL, has partnered with MG to to reveal an octagonal shaped key on court.

Regular basketball players will be aware of the centre section of the court being a circle, as is the scoring zone, or key, in front of the baskets. But for 28 games throughout the forthcoming 2018/2019 season, sponsored by Hungry Jacks, the key will be replaced by the distinctive MG Motor octagon.
The octagonal key debuted during the season tip-off in New Zealand, seeing the first octagonal on Thursday 11 October. Australia saw it in a game between the NSW based Illawarra Hawks, and the Victorian Melbourne United. Another early release was seen between the Sydney Kings and Adelaide‘s 36er’s. Neither team from NSW were victorious.

It’s a three year deal between the NBL and MG Motor Australia, and there’s some real incentive from MG in the form of a ZS being awarded to the seaon’s winner. This comes on the back of MG being confirmed as the presenting partner of the NBL Grand Final Series.

Danny Lenartic, Marketing Director at MG Motor Australia said of the on-court change: “MG has always been a brand that embraces fun. We wanted to do something that had not yet been done, and knew that changing the key to an octagon would certainly get people talking! The octagon is an iconic shape that has been associated with MG for over 90 years of the brand’s history. The teams and crowd embraced the new-look key at its debut and we look forward to rolling this out further throughout the 2019 season.”
The next showing of the MG Motor Australia octagonal will be on 21 October, with the Cairns Taipans taking on the Illawarra Hawks in Cairns.

Alpine A110 Ready To “Peak” Interest.

Automotive history is littered with names that have disappeared and then, to the joy of the hardcore, been resurrected. In rallying circles the name “Alpine” is synonymous with elegance and good looks, and the brand’s name has been given an injection here in Australia with the release of the Australian Premiere Edition Alpine A110. A recommended retail starting price of $97,000 comes along with it and for the money there’s a pack of standard kit.

An aluminuim chassis and a turbocharged 1.8L petrol engine, with 185kW and 320Nm of torque powering down through the rear wheels, plus double wishbone suspension, see a zero to one hundred time of 4.5 seconds and a 44:56 front to rear weight distribution take the new Alpine to levels surpassing its hey-day. The alloy chassis is bonded and riveted for structural rigidity, plus adds to the weight loss regime. Even more weight has been lost from using lightweight Sabelt sports seats at 13.1kg each, and Brembo brakes that incorporate the parking brake into the rear main calliper. This world first innovation saves another 2.5kg. All up, the Alpine A110 clocks the scales at just 1049 kilograms.

The proven double-wishbone suspension ensures that as the car moves and follows the road surface, the tyre’s contact patch remains consistently flat on the road. Kinetics sees the tyres press harder onto the road the harder the Alpine A110 corners. A conventional strut setup would have the tyre’s move to a position that offers less grip. Double wishbones means more suspension travel and due to the lightweight it means the actual suspension settings can be softer and more absorbent. That lightweight aids the handling further with the use of hollow anti-roll bars. This combination means that Alpine were able to specify rubber that initially looks small but in testing proved to be ideal. Michelin supply the Pilot Sport 4 and in a 205/40/18 & 235/40/18 front and rear combination on Otto Fuchs alloys.

Although it’s an inherently safe chassis, the Alpine A110 still comes with the essentials of electronic safety. Anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control are standard. There’s a smattering of luxury items in the forms of an active sports exhaust, a sound system from renowned French audio gurus Focal, carbon fibre interior trim, leather trim on the Sabelt seats, and brushed alloy pedals. The driver is looked after by a driver focused design ethic; the binnacle is small yet clearly laid out and easy to read, the steering wheel is of a suitable diameter and heft, and all round vision is engineered in to be high. Satnav and climate control are also standard as in smartphone mirroring.

Contact your Renault dealer for more details.

Peugeot Goes Touring With The 508.

Peugeot continues its renaissance with the announcement of the revamped 508 range and the addition of the Tourer variant. This is currently scheduled for a release in the second half of 2019. The Tourer will be released along with the “Fastback” and is based on a brand new from the wheels up design. Known as the EMP2, or Efficient Modular Platform 2, the design enables Peugeot to strip up to 70 kilograms from the mass of the Tourer. It also features a more compact design, a reduced height, yet without compromising interior packaging. There’s a sharper, edgier design, and the interior has also been given an update which will feature the third version of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit.

Motorvation will come from a new driveline combination; for Australia there’ll be a newly designed Aisin eight speed auto and will be paired with a 1.6L petrol engine producing 168kW. A slightly less powerful version, with 135kW, will also be available and paired with the same auto. This will be seen in the Fastback and sedan versions at launch. Built into a chassis that will be at around 1420kg, it means a better power to weight ratio than most of the competitors the vehicles will be up against. Variants fitted with the 169kW engine will boast an 8.41kg/kW power-to-weight ratio while 133kW variants will also be competitive with a 10.67kg/kW power-to-weight ratio.

Ben Farlow, Peugeot Australia Managing Director, said the all-new 508 range’s arrival signifies the complete reinvention of the Peugeot line-up and heralds a new focus for the marque in Australia.

“Over the past five-years, Peugeot has completely reinvented its product range and the all-new 508 will challenge segment norms, while delivering a vehicle that is not just enjoyable to drive, but great to look at. The Peugeot ‘5-series’ has always held a fond place in the hearts and minds of generations of Australian motorists and this all-new 508 is set to reignite the passion for Peugeots that stretches back almost 100 years locally.”

Full pricing and safety features are yet to be confirmed, but it’s expected that now common safety technology such as Autonomous Emergency Braking will be on board. For further information and to be in the mailing list for updates, contact peugeot.com.au

Mercedes-Benz A-Class On The Way For 2019.

Mercedes-Benz is due to release an updated A-Class range before the end of the year and it’s set to receive a healthy boost with the introduction of the new A 250 4MATIC. Available for a limited time, the A 250 4MATIC arrives with the same generous levels of standard equipment as the A 200, but adds more power and all-wheel drive traction. The new A 250 4MATIC will be available from all authorised Mercedes-Benz dealerships in November 2018 and is priced from $49,500 (Manufacturer’s Retail List Price)

The M 260 four-cylinder engine in the new A 250 4MATIC is essentially a further development of the previous M 270. It will produce 165 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque. Combined with the standard 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission, the A 250 4MATIC is able to sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 6.2 seconds. Combined fuel consumption is 6.6L per 100 km.

The 4MATIC system has been developed further by Mercedes-Benz, and offers even more driving pleasure and efficiency. Using the DYNAMIC SELECT switch in the cabin, the driver is able to influence the 4MATIC characteristics more than before. 4MATIC components include the power take-off to the rear axle, which is integrated into the automated dual clutch transmission, and the rear axle differential with an integrated multi-plate clutch. This is no longer electro-hydraulically powered, but instead electro-mechanically.

Drive torque distribution between the front and rear axles is fully variable so depending on the driving situation, 100 per cent of the drive torque can be directed to the front axle (e.g. when driving straight ahead with no increased slip at the front axle), or in borderline cases up to 50 per cent can be directed to the rear axle if the friction coefficient suddenly changes such as wet or snowy roads.

Using the DYNAMIC SELECT switch, the driver is able to influence the characteristics of 4MATIC even more than before. In the A-Class there are two characteristic curves available for clutch control. Models equipped with 4MATIC have a four-link rear suspension for enhanced ride and handling characteristics.

As with the A 200, the Mercedes-Benz A 250 4MATIC comes with 18-inch aero alloy wheels, the Mercedes-Benz MBUX multimedia system with widescreen cockpit (2 x 10.25-inch digital screens), TOUCHSCREEN Central Display with NTG 6 MB Navigation, standard LED headlights with Adaptive High Beam Assist, keyless start, and wireless charging fo compatible smartphones.

The A 250 4MATIC also arrives with a host of standard safety equipment such as nine air bags (front, pelvis side, and window bags for driver and front passenger, side bags for rear occupants and knee bag for driver), Active Brake Assist with semi-autonomous braking function, Active Parking Assist including PARKTRONIC, Active Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Assist with exit warning, Traffic Sign Assist and reversing camera. The exterior has also been refreshed and brings the 2019 A-Class into line with the majority of the passenger car range from the iconic German manufacturer.

Contact your local Mercedes-Benz dealer to organise a test drive when the vehicles hit the showrooms.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Lexus RX-450h

Take a mid to large sized SUV, add a smattering of real leather, toss in a pinch of hybrid technology attached to a 3.5L V6, and pin on a badge that says L. Voila, it’s the 2019 Lexus RX-450h. It comes with a choice of non-hybrid or hybrid V6, a turbo 2.0L, and either five or seven seats. Private Fleet has the hybrid and showcased it at a superb location, Dryridge Estate, in the Megalong Valley, on the western fringes of the Blue Mountains.The RX 450h mates a pair of electric motors to the petrol engine. That’s good for 230 kW to power all four wheels on demand with a torque split system. Peak torque for the 2270 kilogram (dry) machine is a somewhat surprising 335Nm at a high 4600 rpm. It feels as if there should should be more though. Transmission is a CVT and for the most part it’s hard to pick it as being one. A dial in the centre console allows the driver to choose different drive modes, and picking Sports/Sports+ changes the left hand LCD dial in the driver’s binnacle from a hybrid information screen to a tachometer. And although it’s a heavy machine with a load on, at just under three tonnes, economy is very good. Lexus quotes a better than impressive 6.0L/100 kilometres on the combined cycle, a figure that we didn’t finish all that far away from in a real world, lifestyle, testing drive.The Lexus RX-450h, for the most part, was driven in the environment it’s most likely to be seen: around town. Here it copes admirably, with the comfortable interior featuring rear seat climate control, superbly padded real leather pews front and rear, powered rear seats, and a power tail gate. There’s a full length glass roof which was at odds with the junior members of the review team preferring the Toyota Kluger Grande’s sunroof and blu-ray player. The actual dash design is the somewhat heavy horizontal layer look that Lexus favours, with most switch-gear easily seen from the driver’s seat. The trip/odometer are hidden behind the right hand tiller spoke, and the Start/Stop button behind the left hand side. The trim in the RX-450h supplied was black and chocolate plastic, counterbalanced by cream leather with a distinctively different feel to machine made leather.There’s the traditional Lexus multi-function controller in the centre console that allows the front seat passengers to access an array of information such as the audio, climate control, and Lexus information, which requires a smartphone to be paired in order to deliver the info. This pops up on a 12.3 inch widescreen display high on the dash, ensuring it’s at eye level and provides a better measure of safety, rather than looking downwards. There is also a relatively bland looking HUD or Head Up Display. A Mark Levinson audio system with DVD-Audio capability and DAB tuner is installed, and it’s worth the time to set it up for your preferred style of audio. Unusually, a Time-Shift function is added, where a user can rewind live audio thanks to a small hard drive running streaming storage. All windows are one touch up/down, and a soft touch at that. There’s a better quality material for the windows themselves to run on, with an almost silent mechanism as a result. Wireless smartphone charging is gradually making its way into more cars and it’s here too, albeit hidden in an awkward forward position ahead of the cup holders.Ride and drive is a mixed bag. The steering can feel heavy when it’s just the front wheels being driven, but lightens in proportion as drive gets shunted rearward. Lateral stability is high with only the occasional rear end hop/skip over unsettled surfaces in corners. It’s the suspension that raises and eyebrow sometimes, with a feeling that the tune, although compliant, has the body feeling as if its moving around more than anticipated and this happens at the top of the suspension, almost like a mattress with a pole and springs supporting it at each corner.. There’s more pogoing than expected but does damp itself quickly enough.

Turn-in is easily controlled via throttle application. There’s little predisposition to a nose heavy attitude in corners but on the rare occasion there was a tendency to run wide, a gentle lift of the go-pedal would tuck the front back in before a judicious squeeze would have the car settle into the desired arc. The excellent brakes also help, with a brush of the pedal enough to feel the mass of the RX-450h respond in kind, and certainly assisted in the run out to the spectacular views from Dryridge Estate. Naturally they feed kinetic energy back into the hybrid system and it can be a little mesmerising watching the dash display with arrows feeding in and out of the various car driveline components..This small vineyard, Dryridge Estate, is at the southern end of the road leading from Blackheath, a small village on the way out to Lithgow and Bathurst as one drives from Sydney. Located on the escarpment of the massive Megalong Valley, a former sea canyon, the drive starts with a series of tight and downhill oriented turns through a fern lined and barely sunshine lit set turns that will test and delight the enthusiastic driver. That’s presuming one isn’t caught behind another driver that brakes every couple of seconds. They specialise in small and intimate gatherings, provide a wonderful variety of cheeses to sample, and of course their own produce. The fact that the background should entice car companies to host launches there is a bonus.Once at valley level the forest and ferns disappear, with a broad valley floor offering uninterrupted views of the canyon walls. It’s about a twenty minute drive from the highway to Dryridge, with a couple of kilometres worth of unsealed road taking you to the estate. Facing eastwards the estate then allows driver and passenger a chance to stop and drink in the stunning view. The RX-450h was neutral and easily controlled on the downhill run, with the brakes recharging the hybrid’s battery along the way. On the flat the V6 opens up and emits a throaty roar under acceleration, and the steering seems to loosen up, almost as if it realises that it’s time to relax and back off on assisting, yet keeps in touch with the driver.On the gravel that softer upper end travel comes into its own, with that absorption level flattening out the corrugations found on the way in and back out. Heading back to the highway brings with it a similar yet different feeling. Being front wheel drive oriented there’s a subtle shift in chassis feel thanks to the now uphill run. The nose is a little harder, tighter, as each flex of the right foot has the front tyres biting into the tarmac. The torque split feels more noticeable as it pushes the rear along into the turns uphill and makes for a more nimble and exhilarating package. The multi-purpose Dunlop SP Sport Maxx rubber provide a decent enough grip across both types of surfaces and at 235/55/20 provide a huge footprint too.

If there’s a signature for the Lexus range it’s the exterior design. It’s better than fair to say that Lexus has a unique styling ethic and it’s unlike any other luxury oriented maker. There’s a plethora of lines and angles and very few true curves outside of the wheel arch and behind the passenger doors. The sedan range, all of the SUVs, and even the Land Cruiser based big beastie have a strong family design ethic, particularly at the front end. There’s the distinctive hour glass grille, slimline tapered headlights, and in the RX there are a pair of triangular clusters holding the halogen driving lights. The overall presence is one of a standout on the roads.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Lexus range showcases and highlights a strong desire to take on and beat the Europeans and with possibly a better hybrid range, currently, does so. There’s little to dislike about the RX-450h on the inside as it’s a beautifully comfortable place to be in. Perhaps the only “downside” would be the full size glass roof rather than offering the blu-ray set up as found in the Kluger Grande. But there is that Mark Levinson DVD-audio system to compensate. Outside the exterior is a matter of choice. The drive itself is mostly one of beckoning towards those that enjoy the balance between sheer grunt and technology. The fuel economy is certainly a winner however AWT’s preference for how a fuel engine/battery system works is at odds with Toyota and Lexus’ way of doing it. The fuel engine cuts in far too early for AWT’s liking and the apparent lack of torque is a Mr Spock eyebrow raiser.

It’s a very good highway and freeway cruiser but also distinguished itself on the type of unsealed roads found in the lower mountains and elsewhere. This dual capability adds to the allure of the RX-450h, and with the hybrid economy pairing with the luxury interior, the combination add up to be a worthwhile consideration. Here is where you can find out more.

How To Clean Car Seats

Hello, I’ve left tons of hair and drool over your upholstery. What you gonna do about it, boss?

In my post last week, I discussed the advantages and the disadvantages of the different seat upholstery materials.  In that post, I mentioned the ease of cleaning as a factor that might be the deciding one for you

Now, it’s super-easy to clean car seats if you have vinyl, which is about the only good thing about vinyl. Wipe it down with a damp cloth and there you go. If you have a classic that is cursed with vinyl seats and you’ve done the sensible thing and put aftermarket covers on them, it’s still simple. Take the covers off the seats, toss them into the washing machine on the gentle cycle, dry them on the old Hills Hoist and pop them back on. Simple.

It’s not so simple if you haven’t got car seat covers that come off for washing quite so easily.  You’re going to have to get in there and clean it yourself.  Tackling this job is going to be different depending on whether you chose the leather or the cloth.

OK, let’s start with the cloth seats.  If you decided against leather on the grounds that you have messy children or dogs that would wreck leather, you’re definitely going to have to get the grub out of the upholstery from time to time. Banning really messy food or sticky drinks in the back seat might help keep the muck to a minimum but accidents happen and everybody has the odd icecream in the car now and again. Plus there’s always that small child who needs the loo while you’re stuck in the middle of heavy traffic with no way to pull over… In short, mess will happen!

Here’s how to clean cloth car seats front and back.

  1. Get out the vacuum cleaner and go all over the seats, the back and the headrest, plus any armrests. You may as well give the footwell a good going-over and the cupholders too, while you’re at it. This gets off dog hair, human hair, dirt particles and other loose grit.
  2. Hire one of those carpet shampooing machines and make sure that you get the upholstery head. Follow the instructions and leave the seats to dry out before you sit on them again… which could be a problem if you need to drive back to where you hired the upholstery cleaning machine from before your time runs out.
  3. If you don’t hire one of those machines but want to give it a go yourself, you still have to allow for plenty of drying time, during which you can’t sit on the seats. It’s also a good idea to leave the windows open for better evaporation and air circulation.  Also avoid the temptation to use lots of water – use only just enough. What you’ll need plenty of is elbow grease.
  4. Sprinkle the seats all over with baking soda. Be generous. Use one of those kitchen shaker things or a reclaimed talcum powder container.  Baking soda absorbs smells, so if your car interior is particularly stinky, then leave the baking soda on overnight.  If you want to spot-treat just one stain or area, you can do this, but you might be left with a conspicuously clean patch.
  5. Get a spray bottle of the spritzer or plant mister type and spray the baking soda. Don’t overdo it – you should spray on just enough to make the baking soda pasty.
  6. Grab a toothbrush (if you’re feeling masochistic) or a larger scrubbing brush that isn’t too stiff or scratchy. Now get busy scrubbing the fabric.
  7. Once you’re done scrubbing, get an old towel and blot up as much moisture as possible.
  8. Get your spritzer bottle and fill with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and warm water. You can add some essential oils if you feel like it or if you want a nice smell.  Detergent like you use for handwashing dishes can go in, but no more than a couple of drops.  Now spray this all over the baking soda – again, not excessively.  The vinegar will react with the baking soda and it will fizz up.
  9. Blot again with another old towel – or possibly several. This will absorb the moisture plus the grime loosened by the baking soda, the vinegar and the elbow grease. Once you think you’ve blotted it all, do it again just to make sure.
  10. Open the doors and windows and leave the car interior to dry out. If you can leave the car in the garage with the windows open overnight, all the better.

Admittedly, this process is going to be easier if you have a small city hatch rather than a van or MPV. With larger vehicles, just spot-treat any obvious bits of awfulness (e.g. the place where the dog threw up) and keep up the regular vacuuming.  If you really want a perfect interior, then use the hire machines.

Now for leather seats.  With leather, you have to be really careful with moisture (which will leave leather tough and hard after it dries) and with scratching.  You can start with vacuuming but be very careful to use a proper head with a nice soft brush.

The trick for cleaning leather is that you will wipe rather than scrub.  The good news is that this will work.  Baby wipes and damp cloths will work but be sure to have a towel handy to dry the leather off immediately.  There are truckloads of recipes for cleaning leather, most of which use some combination of soap and water, or detergent and water plus a nice soft cloth.  The alternative is vinegar, which has the added bonus of killing mould and bacteria.  Actually, a rag moistened in water or vinegar followed by drying could be all you need. Just be careful not to let the water/vinegar soak into the leather – you need only enough moisture to loosen the dirt.

However, you might want to add a bit of sheen to the leather and something to help it stay supple – kind of like a moisturiser for the cow skin (or goat skin) covering the seats.  If you’re a horsey type, you probably already have access to saddle soap – and what works for the leather of a saddle or bridle will work for leather seats.    However, the rest of us needn’t despair.  You can buy some overpriced fancy specialist product for cleaning leather seats. Or you can look for a cheaper option in your pantry: mix up some oil and vinegar, just like you would for a salad.  A lot of recipes out there call for olive oil but the secret is that any sort of oil will do the job.  Again, essential oils can be added if you fancy but these are optional.  If you want to add them, my advice is to use lavender (for calming) or eucalyptus (for mental alertness).

Shake the mixture up in a spritzer bottle (and you’ll need to shake before every spray) then spray sparingly on the seats, treating one part at a time.  Again, don’t use too much.  Buff the leather well with a nice old towel or a nasty old T-shirt that’s seen better days – the vinegar and the oil will loosen grime, and any leftover oil will soak into the leather and give it a nice natural shine that helps keep the leather supple. If you’ve got any of the mixture left over, then you can actually use it in a salad – unless you’ve added essential oils, in which case, use it in the bath or as a body oil.

But what about Alcantara, that synthetic suede from the motor racing world?  How do you clean that?  OK, it’s a beast to clean because the suede-like finish shows marks so easily.  However, it is stain-resistant, so the dirt will at least be surface dirt.

To clean Alcantara, you will probably need a proper cleaning product. Stay away from steam cleaning machines and from products designed for leather.   If you can’t get hold of the products made by Alcantara for their product, then you can make do with a lightly moistened sponge or a soft cloth – and make sure that the cloth in question is white just in case the colour bleeds from the rag to the upholstery.  Car detailers have been known to use old-school shaving brushes.  Run the cloth over the upholstery, taking great care not to (a) crush the soft little floofy finish down or (b) use too much moisture.  You’ll need to do it several times, and it’s best to work in a circular motion to avoid leaving streaks in the suede-like finish.  Leave to dry overnight, then get a very soft brush (that old-school shaving brush) or a dry sponge or a dry terrycloth face flannel and gently fluff up the finish again.  Imagine that you’re stroking a kitten and you’ll get the action about right.

 

Cloth Versus Leather

There are two main choices these days when it comes to what the interior designers of new cars put on the seats: cloth and leather. Leather is definitely the material of choice for luxury cars, but if you ever find yourself in a situation where one of the key differences between two variants is what’s on the seats, is it really worth it going for the leather just because it’s posher?  If you’re into keeping up with the Joneses, then this one’s a no-brainer – you go for the more expensive one with the leather – but what if you’re a bit cannier with your cash?

Thankfully, the days of vinyl have gone, so that’s not an option. Those of us who are old enough to remember vinyl seats or who have ridden in classics with this type of upholstery know perfectly well why vinyl seats aren’t found in modern vehicles.  About the only good thing you could say about vinyl was that it was easy to clean. It was slippery when cold or if you had long trousers on. In hot weather and for those wearing shorts, vinyl became sticky but not like spilt jam – more like clingfilm on steroids grabbing bare skin.  It also got really hot on a summer day – add in the hot seat belt buckle on old-style seatbelts and you got your very own personal torture chamber.  I’m shuddering with the memory.

However, back to today.  There you are evaluating two models that are more or less the same apart from the upholstery.  What do you need to say before you say “I’ll go for the one with the leather seats”?

Leather is, of course, a natural material.  It’s the skin of some animal, probably a cow, sheep or possibly a goat.  Given the popularity of beefsteaks around the world and the size of a cattlebeast, what you see on the seats of a luxury car probably came from a cow.  If you’re a vegan or a PETA supporter, then this fact might be the deciding factor for you and you’ll go for the cloth.  However, if you’re omnivorous, then you may see the use of leather as car upholstery as a wise way of using meat byproducts and a sustainable choice (yes, cloth seats are usually acrylic or nylon sourced from plastics).

Here, you might have questions about the difference between Nappa leather and ordinary leather.  Nappa leather is a natural animal skin leather that has been tanned and dyed in a particular way to make it smooth and even.  Nappa leather tends to have a more durable finish and is softer and more pliable.  It’s the softness that adds the extra level of luxury and why the really top-end models are trimmed in Nappa leather rather than common or garden leather.  It also tends to come from something more delicate than cowhide, such as goat or sheep.

Alcantara, however, is an artificial leather – OK, it’s cloth!  It’s stain-resistant and flame-retardant, and it has a scrummy finish that feels like suede.  The flame-retardant properties of Alcantara mean that it’s widely used in racing cars, and this is why it’s popular in sports and supercar models, similar to other racing-inspired accessories and styling.  Alcantara is a brand-name, unlike Nappa leather and all the other seat materials, and it’s produced by one single factory in Italy, which means that it’s a bit more exclusive and more expensive than other cloth.

There are other synthetic leathers around the place.  They’re called things like “PU leather”, “pleather”, “leatherette”, “vegan leather” and “faux leather”.  One company produces a leather substitute made from pineapple fibres but this isn’t used for car seat upholstery – or at least not yet.

The sort of cloth used for upholstering vehicle seats is usually some sort of synthetic material because this tends to be more durable than natural fibres such as wool, linen, tencel or cotton.  Car manufacturers haven’t tried upholstering seats with natural plant-sourced fibres in an attempt to be more sustainable… at least not yet.  Cloth is cheaper than leather because it doesn’t need quite as much cutting, stitching and shaping as leather.  Synthetic cloth comes out of the factory in nice regular shapes of an even and predictable width.  Cows and goats aren’t quite such a nice, regular shape, so leather seats require more work; hence the extra cost.

So what are the pros and cons of each upholstery material type?

Leather:

Pros: Natural material from a renewable source, soft (especially in the case of Nappa), durable, looks amazing, smells nice, doesn’t give off nasty chemical gases

Cons: Stains easily, gets scuffed and scratched by doggy paws and small children’s shoes, absorbs bad smells, comes from a dead animal that may have been killed for the skin, doesn’t like getting wet and especially hates salty seawater

Cloth:

Pros: Cheap, comes in a range of colours and patterns, more forgiving of children, dogs and seawater

Cons: Synthetic material from a non-renewable source, can give off weird gases when new, doesn’t look quite as upmarket as leather.

Alcantara:

Pros: Flame-resistant, stain-resistant, comes in a range of colours, racing heritage, nice suede-like feel, exclusive and upmarket

Cons: A beast to clean, synthetic material from non-renewable sources

To sum up the bottom line about what sort of fabric you want under your bottom, it really depends on your lifestyle and your values.  If you’ve got messy small children or dogs that jump on the seat, then leather isn’t for you.  If you love to spend heaps of time at the beach and you are likely to get salt water on your clothes and other bits that you are likely to chuck onto the back seat, leather probably isn’t for you either.  Cloth is also going to appeal to those who want to save a few bucks, as it’s cheaper.  Leather looks gorgeous and is a natural material from a renewable resource, but if you’re more of a vegan-and-PETA type, then you’ll steer clear of it.

And if you have a classic car with a vinyl seat, do yourself a favour and buy a set of seat covers if you haven’t already!