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Archive for March, 2019

Car Review: 2019 Lexus UX 2.0L & 2.0L Hybrid.

This Car Review Is About:
The “baby” Lexus UX (Urban cross-over)SUV. It slots into a small to mid-sized SUV bracket. There are two engine choices and three trim levels in the range; a 2.0L, and two hybrids designated 250h. There is Luxury, F-Sport, and Sports Luxury, and the hybrids have two different drive-trains. One is front wheel drive, the other is all wheel drive. Both have a 2.0L petrol engine alongside the hybrid system with the AWD having a small, separate, motor for the rear wheels, called the E-Four system. Peak power is rated as 126kW in the non-hybrid, and 107kW in the hybrid according to the brochure, but the website says 131kW for the hybrids as a combined figure. Torque is 205Nm for the non-hybrid, the hybrid 202Nm, with the hybrid’s torque said to be on tap between 4400rpm to 5200rpm for the petrol engine. Economy is rated as 5.8L/100km for the standard version, and 4.5L or 4.7L per 100km for the 2WD and AWD, from the 47L or 43L tanks. Transmissions are the new D-CVT, with a fixed first gear for better acceleration for the non-hybrid and a ten speed CVT for the hybrids. Prices are a little complicated:

Both the UX 200 and hybrid 2WD can be specced in Luxury, Sports Luxury, and F Sport form. The aforementioned AWD is not available in Luxury spec.

According to the Lexus website the driveaway starting prices are around $50,900 for the entry level, $54,600 for the 2WD, and $68,300 for the all wheel drive but the various trim levels don’t seem to be able to be factored in. But…without driveaway pricing the list looks like this. UX 200 Luxury kicks off at $44,450, $53,000 for the Sports Luxury, then $53,450 for the Sports Luxury. Then in the hybrid engine family it starts at $47,950 for the 2WD Luxury, $56,500 for the Sports Luxury and $56,950 for F Sport. Go nuts for the AWD pair and it’s $61,000 for the Sports Luxury and $61,450 for the F Sports.

There there are the option packs. Luxury Pack 1 is $1,550 which includes Hands-free power tailgate, wireless charger, alloy scuff plates, headlamp washer, rear privacy glass, cornering lamp. Pack 2 is $4,050 which is Pack 1 plus a moonroof. The F Sport moonroof is $2500. Then there is the $5600 F Sport Enhancement Pack. This lobs in the moonroof, a punchy 13-speaker Mark Levinson hifi (with all models having a built in DVD player), head-up display, panoramic view monitor and smart key card. THEN there is the $3500 Sports Luxury enhancement pack which adds moonroof, head-up display and smart key card. Got all that? Good.

On The Inside Is:
A car built on the Lexus Global Architecture C platform, which includes the Corolla hybrid and C-HR. It’s a mostly well packaged setup. Front seat leg/head/shoulder room is fine. However rear seat leg room can potentially be compromised. The UX has memory seating and the driver’s seat automatically slides back, and at full stretch is pretty close to the rear seat. Once moved forward, rear seat leg room becomes ok, but not fantastic. Both front seats are heated and vented. The seats front and rear sit inside a 2640mm wheelbase, and that’s inside the overall 4495mm length.Lexus offers a range of interior colours for the materials, with the two cars tested coming with F-Sport White with black accents, and F-Sport Flared Red. The actual materials depend on which trim level has been specified. There is a heightened sense of quality and appeal to the hybrid’s interior trim, with the standard version looking plain and cheap in some areas of the dash.It’s largely a standard Lexus look, with the widescreen information display, analogue dial clock, and console mounted trackpad. It’s still never fully intuitive even with settings to adjust the sensitivity. The UX features a slightly different look to the section south of the trackpad, with four separate tabs to access the radio, stations, and more. The driver’s display has the moving dial that slides left and right, and depending on which orientation it’s in, allows different sporting information such as tyre pressures or a “g-sensor” to show how the UX is moved around. Sports Drive modes are accessed from the binnacle mounted rotary dial. The drive selector is a traditional T-bar style. Wireless smartphone charging is standard also as is a powered steering column.

At the rear is a kick activated tailgate. This reveals a high cargo floor, meaning a little extra work is required to place luggage or shopping. As a result of the height, overall capacity is moderate, with 330L an average between the variations. Only the entry level gets a spare, and it’s a space saver at that.Audio comes from a Lexus bespoke system or Mark Levinson system, with DAB, Bluetooth, and an in-dash DVD player. Punchy, clear, beautiful.

On The Outside Is:An edgy, angular mix, with the Lexus spindle grille front and centre. A striking feature of the UX’s rear is the mix of full body width tail light and aerodynamically positive light clusters. In fact, the whole body is edgy to assist air flow up and over, and along the sculpted sides. However, the rear indicators aren’t what we’ve seen on other Lexus vehicles, with a broad sweep from inside to out. These are normal flashers and small to the eye at that. Front lights are self-levelling LEDs, and have the eponymous L shaped LED driving lights.In profile a low roof line emphasises the height of the nose section and not quite semi-circle wheel arches that flow gracefully into the wing mirrors up front and mirror the aero of the tail light cluster. 17 and 18 inch alloys with dark gunmetal paint contrasted with the Celestial Blue and White Nova colours as supplied. Rubber is from Dunlop, 225/50 on 18s for the F-Sport and Sports Luxury, and 215/60/17s for the Luxury.On The Road It’s:
Two different kinds of cheeses, as opposed to chalk and cheese. The standard 2.0L launches hard, the hybrid launches harder. Considering kerb weights starting at 1490kg through to just under 1700kg, the feel is good. Both CVTs act like CVTs on a light throttle, and move towards more traditional auto changes with a heavier foot. The steering is a variable ratio setup and works best at slow speeds such as parking in carparks. Oddly, it also feels as if the turning centrepoint is almost underneath the driver’s seat.

The standard UX is softer in the rear than the hybrid provided, and both exhibited the same rear end lateral skip on the sweeping right hnader that has an expansion joint running across. Call it bump steer for the rear. It’s a MacPherson strut front and trailing wishbone rear, by the way. On the flat roads it’s stable, comfortable, well damped in both, and only on the worst of the coarse chip covered tarmacs did tyre noise make its way through.

Brakes felt marginally better in the hybrid, not unexpectedly, and the dash in the hybrid has the traditional energy expenditure/recovery display to give the driver an idea.

The Safety Systems Are:
Lacking for nothing. AEB, Forward Collision Alert, Blind Sport Alert, Parking Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Radar Active Cruise Control, Substantial. Lexus call the umbrella package Lexus Safety System +. Items like auto headlights, wipers, and tyre pressure warning are also standard.And The Warranty Is:
Starting to fall behind. Standard warranty is just four years, and considering Toyota recently moved to five it’s not unreasonable to presume Lexus will do the same…eventually.

At The End Of The Drive.
They make for a nice pair of cars but even with a pair of ISOFIX child seat mounts, AWT can’t shake the niggling feeling that Lexus has set the UX to be the entry level to the Lexus SUV range. There is barely enough room for older primary school aged children in the rear seats and the layout of the cargo space speaks the same story.

Has Steam Gone Walkabout?

What about a steam powered car?  In recent times people’s consciences and attention has turned to more environmentally friendly ways of commuting.  So with electric, hydrogen, hybrid and bio-fuel vehicles all available on the current automotive market, why not give steam another go?

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for a steam powered comeback is the grip that the oil companies have on automotive power.  However the winds seem to be changing, with more-and-more people reflecting on how their lifestyle and decisions impact on the environment.  Internal combustion engines produce a lot of pollution and tend to be rather noisy.  Without a doubt cleaner burning engines are resonating with buyers who have cash to spend.  EVs and hybrids are expensive but there are people very happy to buy them.

Difficulties that drove steam powered cars to become museum pieces were:

  • The external combustion steam engines could not be manufactured as cheaply as Henry Ford’s internal combustion engines.
  • Steam engines were also much heavier engines.
  • It took several minutes before the boiler was hot enough for the steam motor to generate power for take-off.

These difficulties created the “Warehouse and Kmart” phenomenon of today, where people flock to where the cheap buys are regardless of the impact.  But with today’s modern materials, steam cars could be as light as their internal combustion engine alternatives.  With a new advanced condenser and a fast heating boiler, the possibility of a modern-day steam car with decent efficiency and a warm-up time that’s measured in seconds rather than minutes could provide the comeback punch that steam needs to become an attractive and viable option for new-car buyers.

Just ponder on this for a moment – a new modern motorcar running on steam that has powerful seamless acceleration instantly, is clean burning, very quiet and, unlike combustion engines, can run on almost any fuel that produces heat.

Steam engines don’t need any gears or transmissions.  They are much more in the same vein as EV cars that have all their torque available at any rpm.  Due to the fact that steam provides constant pressure, unlike the piston strokes of an internal combustion engine, steam-powered cars require no clutch and no gearbox – making them extremely easy to drive.  By virtue of their design, steam engines provide maximum torque and acceleration instantly like electric motors, and particularly for urban driving where there’s lots of stopping and starting, clean-burning steam would be great!

What developments in steam have occurred since it rudely got forgotten and laid aside?  Some good news is that in 2009, a British team set a new steam-powered land speed record of 148 mph (237 km/h), finally breaking the Stanley Rocket’s record which had stood for more than 100 years.  In the 1990s, a Volkswagen Enginion (a model for research and development) boasted a steam engine that had comparable efficiency to internal combustion engines, but with lower emissions.  And, in recent years, Cyclone Technologies claims it has developed a steam engine that’s twice as efficient.

It might have preceded the internal combustion engine by around 200 years, but as the world is finally starting to take a serious look at the future viability of personal transport, perhaps the wonder of gliding by steam power will once again be seen on our modern roads.  In an age of touchscreen infotainment systems, EV cars that can do 400 km on a charge and driverless cars, surely there is room for new, clean-and-efficient steam cars.

Currently the increased focus on environmental responsibility could be weakening the link between the oil industry and modern motorcars.  Wouldn’t you just love to be able to fill your car up with rainwater and head off on your work commute!

Thoughts?

Hyundai Kona Electric Is Revealed.

Hyundai Australia has teased and drip-fed information about the fully electric Kona, and now have provided a full overview. There are two crucial points in the information, with the first being the expected usable range from a full charge. That’s 449km. The second is the retail price. That’s $59,990 plus on road and government costs.80% charge from zero can be reached in as little as 54 minutes when plugged into a 100kWh charger, otherwise will take longer from the more easily accessible charging stations and from a home based charger. A 50kWh charger will take 75 minutes to reach 80% whilst the onboard 7.2kWh charger will take over nine hours using a domestic current setup.Power and torque from the 64kWh battery powered motor is substantial. It’s rated at 150kW, and 395Nm of torque. They’re good enough to get the Kona Electric to 100km/h in 7.6 seconds. Drive is via a single gear style transmission, and the Kona Electric has a regenerative system that can be adjusted on the fly via the paddle shifters. Smart technology allows the driver to bring the vehicle to a stop simply by holding the left paddle.There will be two model levels, the Elite and Highlander. Both will have the same drivetrain. Both will feature the same high specification safety package as well. Called SmartSense it features Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Smart Cruise Control with a Stop and Go function, and a Driver Attention Warning to alert drivers of potential fatigue.

Lane Keep Assist, Blind Sport Collision Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Collision Warning will also be standard. Also standard will be DAB+ pumping through an eight speaker Infinity system, Apple CarPLay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, and accessed via an 8.0 inch touchscreen. Highlander gains wireless charging for compatible smartphones, a glass roof, powered front seats with venting and heating, and a heated tiller. Extra tech comes in the forms of a Head Up Display, High Beam Assist, LED lighting front and rear, and a frontal park assist system. Hyundai Auto Link, a smart app, allows owners to stay in contact and monitor their car. A SIM module is required for the Kona Electric.The exterior has some discernible changes compared to its petrol powered sibling, notably the closed in front end. The rear bumper has been reprofiled for better airflow, and the rear lower lights have been given a change too. Wheels will be 17 inches in diameter. A choice of six colours (metallic is a $595 option), Galactic Grey and Phantom Black, Ceramic Blue, Pulse Red, Lake Silver and Chalk White, come with choices (depending on exterior colour) of interior trim. and a no cost two-tone body & roof option on Highlander will be made available.

Ride quality should be on point, thanks to the local engineering and development team. An independent multi-link rear and MacPherson strut front have been fettled to suit the weight and balance of the battery powered Kona. 15 front and 22 rear suspension designs were looked at, along with six spring and damper combinations.Andrew Tuitahi, the Hyundai Motor Company Australia Senior Manager of Product Planning said:“The low centre of mass brings lots of benefits that seem obvious, but also many challenges that were new to us. This demanded different damper design and spring choices, to the end that Kona Electric shares very little in its ride and handling package with its petrol-powered sibling.”“The Kona Electric powertrain and weight distribution required a very different approach to tuning compared with the conventionally engined Kona, and naturally defined a different brief.” He also said: “The powertrain is so silky-smooth and quiet, we felt that it demanded a smooth and quiet ride quality to match. In meeting our standard for comfort and dynamic ability, the vehicle we have ended up with is full of character and charm.”

Here and there are aspects of weight saving, such as the alloy front control arms, Advanced High Strength Steel (10% lighter and twice as rigid as normal mild steel), plus adhesives to back up welding points.

Servicing is every 15,000 kilometres and comes with a fixed $165 cost. The abttery comes with a 8 year or 160,000 kilometre warranty. Contact your Hyundai dealer for more details.

Tesla Unveils Model Y SUV.

 

Tesla has released details of their Model 3 based electric SUV. Dubbed the Model Y, it slots into the mid-sizer SUV space and will be priced from USD$39,000. That price is applied to the Standard Range version. It will also come in Long Range, Dual-Motor All-Wheel Drive, and Performance variants.Tesla say the Model Y will be able to reach 62mph/100km/h in 3.5 seconds, and should see a top speed of 150mph/240km/h. Range expectations are 230 to 300 miles for the Standard and Long Range versions.

The Model Y will be available for sale in the U.S., according to current expectations, in the autumn of 2020 in the northern hemisphere for the Model Y Performance, Long Range Rear-Wheel Drive, and Dual-Motor All-Wheel Drive variants, with Standard Range vehicles due in 2021.

Model Y will feature a panoramic glass roof to provide an extra sense of space inside the mid-sizer for the seven passengers. A single 15 inch touchscreen will provide driver and passenger information and comfort. There is an application for smart devices that can be installed also, allowing a driver to enable pre-airconditioning, remote unlock, and a Summon mode. Notable, however, will be the Model Y using the normal door method with vertically aligned hinges, and not using the costlier Model X gull-wing system.Naturally the Model Y will be compatible with the extensive charger network and will be able to take advantage of the forthcoming V3 charging rate system, which will provide a rate of up to 1,000 miles worth of charging in an hour.

Expected release dates for the Australian market are yet to be confirmed.

The Top Five From The Last Five

Picture Australian roads in the mid 1970s. It was the era of Holden, Ford, and Chrysler. Japanese brands such as Subaru and Toyota were known of, Korean cars simply didn’t “exist”, and four wheel drive capable utes were the end product of after-market conversion companies. European cars were largely luxury types or sports cars, with Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz up against Porsche, whilst Volkswagen was best known for its “people’s car” still.

The Kingswood and Falcon duked it out with the big Chrysler Valiant, sedans and wagons, like “light” and “heavy” beer were the only choices.
But it was also heading towards the days of the so-called oil crisis. Emissions were also becoming something that would be under the microscope, and European designs would soon start to filter their way through to the Aussie marketplace.

Punk music was just starting to grow, Queen were thriving, and a small film called Star Wars has people queuing around street corners.Times and tastes have changed over the last forty years or so. Technology has made substantial differences to how we enjoy viewing, watching, listening, and driving.

2014 Top Five.
Toyota already had a reputation for building solid off road cars. They were known for cheap to run, if not exciting to drive, small cars, and in 2014 their Corolla was the number one selling car. Competitor Mazda also grew from a good yet uninspiring range, bar the exciting and thirsty EX-7, and in 2014 their Corolla fighter, the Mazda 3 (once known as the 323 and shared with Ford as the Laser) ran a VERY close second. How close?43,735 “Rollas” were sold in 2014, against 43,313 3s. Toyota claimed position number 3 in 2014. Their HiLux 4×2 and 4×4 utes, in two and four door configurations was making steady progress through the sales charts and finished ahead of Hyundai’s i30 five door hatch. The once almost unstoppable Holden Commodore would take fifth in 2014.

2015 would see a change in the rankings with not one, but two, utes in the top five. Toyota had consolidated first again, with the Corolla still of big appeal at just over 42K vehicles finding new homes. Mazda’s 3 had gone backwards considerably, with 38,644 in new driveways.

HiLux would be third yet again in 2015 but had lost close to three thousand sales. In fourth it was Hyundai’s tidy i30 but in fifth, and with sales going up by about the same HiLux went down, was Ford’s overhauled Ranger. 29,185 Rangers were sold, up from 26,619 in 2014.

2016 was a watershed year for the Australian automotive manufacturing industry. The largely home grown Falcon was no more and Ford Australia had ceased local manufacturing. The top five in 2016 was a case of the same yet different. HiLux had been given a makeover, with a more assertive and blokey styling. This was enough to propel it to the top of the charts for 2016, and how! 42,104 versions were sold, an increase of just shy of seven thousand. Corolla made it a Toyota one-two with the i30 taking bronze again. Ranger increased sales by nearly eight thousand to finish fourth on 36.934, with the Mazda3 in fifth, down by over two thousand to 36,107.

Best selling cars of 2017.
Well, it was a battle of the utes this year. The tsunami that was HiLux in 2016 continued, with an increase of nearly five thousand from 2016. 47,093 of them were purchased. Ford’s Ranger shouldered through the Corolla range and with 42,728, silver on the podium was Ford’s for the taking. It was a tussle of the small cars for third, fourth, and fifth, with Corolla, Mazda3, and the i30 taking the minor placings. i30 had collapsed, with just 28,780 being sold compared to 2016’s 37,772. 2017 would also see Holden and Toyota pull down the shutters on their local manufacturing operations.

2018’s Best Sellers.
Australia’s love affair with the Commodore, and sedans in general, was well and truly over. But that love for the HiLux was increased even further, with the chunky machine seeing 51,705 rolling out of showrooms. In December of 2018 alone, 3871 were sold.

Ford’s Ranger had undergone a facelift in 2017 and that momentum continued to have the brawny Australian designed machine shift 42,144 units. This was close to seven thousand units ahead of the Corolla, with its own 2017, edgy looking, facelift not diminishing appeal. 35,320 Toyota Corollas were bought, well over four thousand more than the Mazda3. In fifth was the bridesmaid’s bridesmaid, Hyundai’s i30. However, in 2018, more attention was on the i30N than the others, which means a climb to fourth for 2019 may well be the case.

Of note is Mitsubishi’s Triton. A facelifted version was made available in early 2019, and 2018 saw 24,896 sold. Holden’s Colorado didn’t crack the top ten in comparison.

Tell us what you think of the current state of Australian car sales, and which brand grabs your fancy by getting in touch via our blog and social media connections.

Kia Drops Optima, Hyundai Unveils Sister Sonata.

Kia Australia has announced that the under-performing Optima is to be dropped from the Australian lineup. With the medium car segment shrinking and Optima moving just 54 units in January and February of 2019, the handsome and stylish front wheel drive machine is destined to be deleted as a sales choice by year’s end. However, as good a car as it is with a superb ride and sharp handling, the fact that the sales of the bigger Stinger have increased, and with close to 2000 units moved last year, but just eight percent of those being the sparkling turbo four as found in the Optima, the Optima’s future is clouded.

Kia itself has declared its electric intent, with the Soul looking to move to a purely electric platform. The petrol version’s sales has collapsed, and rather than continue with either the petrol or hybrid versions, as another small SUV is planned for Australia, Kia Australia will trial the Soul as a battery powered option only. Kia has also waved goodbye to the almost invisible Rondo.The newly updated Cerato hatch and sedan have grown in size, and by becoming closer overall to the Optima, and now packing turbo engines in the GT options, have given buyers a choice largely no longer taken up in the medium sedan segment.Kia’s majority shareholder owner, Hyundai, has unveiled their new Sonata though. Sister car to the Optima, the 2020 Sonata debuts a new design and features a more coupe styling. The rear features lights that do more than nod towards a Swedish influence, whilst the new nose has strong influences from the European mainland makers. Inside Hyundai have moved towards the Japanese and European high dash mounted screen as seen in Audi and Lexus, for two examples.Overall height is down by 30mm, whilst overall width is up by 25mm. This gives the 2020 Sonate a sleeker and more purposeful stance on road. That’s helped by a longer body and wheelbase of 45mm and 35mm respectively.

The current expected release date is in late 2019.

Car Review: 2018MY Toyota Prado GXL

This Car Review Is About:
A vehicle from Toyota that I had not driven before. With such an extensive range of vehicles from Toyota, the Prado was the one that has eluded the review section. Unless if you count the FJ Cruiser, which was loosely based on the Prado. We tested the GXL spec Prado, the second level of four, with the model receiving a light freshen up in mid 2018 that changed one key feature….Under The Bonnet Is:
A diesel engine of 2.8L capacity. The 4.0L petrol V6 is long gone. Transmission is a choice of six speeds, with a manual or self shifter. It’s a permanent four wheel drive, with a simple choice of high or low range. The test vehicle has the auto, making great use of the 450Nm and 130kW. Toyota quotes a combined fuel consumption figure of 8.0L per 100 kilometres. Our mainly urban cycle finished on a reasonable 10.8L/100km. That’s from a 2,325kg plus fuel and cargo machine. Towing for the auto is rated up to 3,000kg braked, 2,500kg braked for the manual.On The Inside Is:
Clear evidence of a design that is some years old now. Seven seats aside, it’s the look and feel from the driver’s seat that tells the story of how easy it is to update an exterior, and not so for the inside.Plastics have a slightly tired look and feel, the centre dash stack has an outdated silver hue, and the overall design is a number of squares and rectangles, lacking the wraparound style now more commonly seen. The seats are of a smooth vinyl/leather look in the test car, with leather accented seats listed as optional for the GXL. Also optional (and fitted to the test car) are heated and vented facilities. These are operated via dials in the centre console.The centre stack is, aside from the silver hue, ergonomic in layout. The lower section has a soft touch lid that sits above the 4WD high and low range dial and the tabs for the centre and rear locking differentials. Up top is an eight inch touchscreen with AM/FM, no DAB for the GXL, and Bluetooth streaming. Satnav is standard. The driver’s dash dials are analogue in the GXL, and the centre 3.5 inch screen is typical Toyota.Centre and rear seats are comfortable enough and easily moved when required. Toyota goes with the best way to move the rear seats and that’s with the tried and proven pull strap system. The right hand side vertically hinged door provides easy access to the rear section but it’s also here that Prado suffers by not being a dedicated people mover. With the third row up storage is just 120L. With them folded it’s a more reasonable 480L, then 1833L with the centre row down. The rears eats also have their own aircon controls, making for a three zone system.On The Outside Is:
A strong family resemblance to the Land Cruiser is engineered in thanks to a smoother look. The front and rear design do away with the edges and, as a result, with a more smoother and rounded look, looks more like the Land Cruiser than before. The LED driving lights and slimline headlights also bring more of the family look.The biggest change to the design, one that seems almost invisible before the head slap is the removal of the tail gate mounted spare wheel. It’s now located under the rear seats, underneath the car itself. Aesthetically it looks better but it reduces the mass on the door and makes it easier to operate. The door itself has a horizontally hinged glass door for access if required.The overall Prado design hasn’t changed since the very first model. High riding, a blunt & bluff nose, a solid looking glasshouse, and a kink to the rear window & door line. Rubber is big as well, with Dunlop AT20 Grand Trek 265/60 tyres on classic 6 spoke 17 inch alloys.On The Road It’s:
Somewhat rubbery in the steering, but that seems to be more along the lines of allowing for off-road action. That 450Nm is between 1600 to 2400rpm for the auto, and makes for effortless driving in virtually all conditions. Off the line is a moment of hesitation, then the turbo kicks in and the torque does its job.Braking is responsive and needs to be with the bulk of the Prado. The pedal bites easily and is delicious in its feedback through the travel, amuch needed sensation and again related to the mass. There is some body roll at highway speeds and moving lane to lane, otherwise it’s minimal.Off road the Prado got to show off its much vaunted ability. And in no way did it develop in a driver any sense of disappointment thanks to the double wishbone front/4 link rear suspension. Up and down rocky, gravelly, muddy roads, though deep washaways and soft surfaces, the Prado’s legendary prowess was well and truly displayed. Put into low range, with diff locks and hill descent control engaged, it crawled liked a seasoned soldier through a tactical course. Grip was confident, assured, composed, with the slightly soft steering now showing why. With the front wheels moving around, it allows a more intuitive control when off road. And when engaging low range, it brings up on the driver’s dash a clinometer, showing side and fore and aft angles. Approach angles of 30.4 and 23.5 degrees make for largely easy access in and out.The Safety Systems Are:
Substantial. The automatic gets a hefty dose of safety. Under the name of Toyota Safety Sense the GXL has Lane Departure Alert, Pre-Collision Warning with pedestrian alert, auto high beam, and Active Cruise Control. The GXL has rear sensors but dips out on front sensors as standard. Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Monitor are also not on the GXL, but standard on VX and Kakadu.

And The Warranty Is:
Very good. Every new Toyota bought after January 1, 2019, has a standard five year warranty. Unlimited kilometres is part of the package and Toyota ups the ante by offering a full seven years if the Prado is serviced as per the vehicle’s logbook requirements. Servicing is $240 including GST for the first six services for three years or 60,000 kilometres.At The End Of The Drive.
The 2019 Toyota Prado GXL is a Toyota four wheel drive through and through. The off-road ability is undoubted, and on road it’s decent enough. Outside it’s benefiting from a stronger family resemblance to the 200 Series Land Cruiser but it’s inside that the packaging will benefit from an update.

Regardless, after AWT’s first drive, it didn’t disappoint. Go and find your inner Prado here.

Tesla Reveals V3 Superchargers

Fresh from the success of his Space-X mission to the ISS, Elon Musk‘s other love, Tesla, has released information on a change to their car charging system. Called V3 Supercharging, it brings a massive change in how Tesla cars are charged, and drastically lowers the charging time.

To be rolled out in the U.S. initially, V3 Supercharging moves to a different charging point, with a solitary charging cabinet, as Tesla puts it, with a 1 MW (megaWatt) capacity able to provide a new Model 3 Long Range car with up to 75 miles worth of range in just five minutes and the equivalent of one thousand miles of range in just an hour.The cabinets themselves will now provide one car with one power source, with the previous method a power-share model meaning if two cars were attached to the one charge cabinet, charge rates were slower. By providing a single stream, Tesla anticipates average charge times to drop to 15 minutes for a full charge.

Another innovative change to the Tesla charge system is a pre-warming of the batteries as the car approaches a charging point. Called On-Route Battery Warmup, the onboard system recognises the car’s proximity to a Tesla or compatible car charging point. By warming the battery on approach, it means the chemical makeup of the battery is more respondent to the incoming charge. This is anticipated to reduce charge time by up to 25%.

The overall changes are anticipated to reduce the overall charge time by 50%, and increase the number of cars being charged in the same amount of time.

Tesla will add more to their existing charging system too, with their current V2 superchargers, numbering over 12,000 worldwide, to be updated to a 145kW charge rate. The improvements are forward planning for the release of the recently re-priced Model 3 and the forthcoming Model Y. Asia-Pacific stations are currently scheduled for a Q4 2019 update.

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Suzuki Jimny

This Car Review Is About:
The new and reborn fourth version 2019 Suzuki Jimny. It’s a cubical machine, with styling hints aplenty from Jimnys before, comes with a reasonable range of tech, and a pile of charm that’ll fit in your pocket.Under The Bonnet Is:
A 1.5L petrol engine with variable valve timing. It gets grip through to the ground via a four speed auto with overdrive or a five speed manual. With peak power of 75kW @ 6,000rpm and peak torque of 130Nm @ 4,000rpm, the manual is the preferred transmission.

Fuel is fed to the small engine via a fuel thimble of 40-L. Consumption for the 1075kg/1090kg (tare weight) machine is rated, on the combined cycle, 6.4L/100km for the manual and 6.9L/100km for the self shifter.

There is a proper four wheel drive system, with 2WD and 4WD high range, and a transfer case for 4WD low range. It’s a simple push and pull design, and works well. Select Neutral, slide the somewhat notchy lever back for 4WD High, press down and slide for 4WD Low, and that’s it.On The Outside It’s:
Two cubes joined together. One small one, and one larger. That’s the engine bay and the cabin. It is a three door, with the rear door swinging out to a full ninety degree fold from a driver’s side hinge pairing and holds the spare wheel hidden under a black plastic case. The styling cues are plentiful with nods towards history coming from the twin slots embossed into the sheetmetal at the base of the A pillar. Round headlights (with new LED inserts) and separate indicators, combination rear lamps, and a five slot grille complete the history lesson.Paintwork is a choice of six with the test machine clad in a Chiffon Ivory Metallic. Other colours are Kinetic Yellow, Brisk Blue Metallic, Jungle Green, Medium grey, and Superior White, with a Bluish-Black Pearl roof, with the ceiling itself having longitudinal strakes. Black polyurethane wheel arches sit over a broad space between the body and the 195/80/15 rubber.It’s not the biggest thing on the road, with a total length of 3,645mm and that’s the front to the wheel cover. It stands 1,720mm high and is 1,645mm wide. There is plenty of all round vision through the broad glasshouse, and the front screen has a pair of simple looking wipers. The washer jets are powerful but waste water because of the power, with the fluid bouncing off the screen.The grille itself is the same black material as the arch covers and the front bumper, which houses standard globe lit driving lights, doesn’t stand that far out from the grille itself. The short overhangs allow an approach angle of 37 degrees, departure of 49 degrees, and the breakover angle is 28 degrees.The body itself is built on a ladder chassis that incorporates a structure strengthening “x” member, plus an extra pair of cross members to ensure a stiff body. Adding to the strength is a rear axle housing that is bigger than the previous model, adding up to 30% extra rigidity.

On The Inside Is:
A cabin that has largely black overtones. The cloth seats are black, the dash is black, the floor is black, most of the door trim is black. There is a splash of body colour in the doors and around the rear seats, a light grey material covers the upper section of the cabin. The dash itself is old school and not necessarily all in a good way.The good is Suzuki’s elegant seven inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satnav and Bluetooth connectivity. The aircon vents at either end of the dash are the simple push and twirl for direction style, but the centre ones are a rectangular style and don’t feel as if they flow air terribly well.The centre stack holds dials for the aircon controls and it’s a twist for the fan speed and temperature. The design has push buttons for the mode (air flow direction), fresh or recirculating, A/C on and an off tab. The size of the dials makes the information screen in the centre dial hard to read clearly.

The dials sit over four tabs for the power windows, Hill Descent Control, and traction control on/off selector. Underneath them is a 12V socket and USB port. On the passenger side is a grip handle, whilst the driver gets red back-lit analogue dials bracketing a monochrome information screen. The leather bound tiller holds cruise control and audio controls.There are plastic sheets on the back of the folding rear seats which allow wet or dirty items to be placed in the 377L cargo area. That’s a whopping 53L larger than the previous Jimny. The packaging overall is better than before, with the seat hip points increased by 40mm. The seat frames themselves have increased by 70mm in width, and there is a sense of sitting high up in the Jimny for a sense of control and the all round vision.

The plastics themselves look old school but Suzuki says that they’ve been engineered to allow bare or gloved hands to operate the tabs and switches, and the vertical lines of the cabin provide a visual reference point when off-roading.

Info for the driver is from a monochrome screen between two somewhat archaic looking red dials, housed inside a cubical block of plastic. It’s a retro look, yes, but it goes too far in the history lesson.

What About Safety?
It’s been rated by Australia’s car safety body, ANCAP, as three stars. Part of that was to do with its Autonomous Emergency Braking system, with ANCAP scoring it down believing it’s not as effective as it should be. The biggest low point was in respect to pedestrian safety. It does have six airbags, Hill Descent Control, Hill Hold Control, and flashing emergency stop signals. Lane Departure Alert and Driver Waeving Alert are also standard.

On The Road It’s:
Lacking in urge, has a spongy ride (which was partly due to 28PSI in the tyres), has vague steering, and soft brakes. The torque is enough for something resembling acceleration but by no means can the word rapid be included. Bearing in mind the size of the engine versus the Jimny auto’s weight, it should feel more lively. And then factor in the transfer case for low range, and a need for more torque suddenly becomes apparent. There’s enough in the Suzuki parts bin to make this a possibility.

The chassis and suspension don’t feel as well sorted as expected. Even with the tyres bumped to 34PSI it was crabby, squirrelly, in its handling. There was more than expected body roll, squeals from the tyres even in gentle cornering, and no real feeling of the steering being connected to the front. Push on understeer was easily achieved at low (20, 30 km/h). The brakes lack bite and the pedal has perhaps not enough feedback.Off road it’s a different animal. That soft ride tightens up, eating dirt for breakfast, and on AWT’s favoured test track, showed the manners expected. It flattens most of the gravel and rock surfaces with a less intrusive body roll, and ploughed through the deeper puddles in the test track with a mostly confident attitude. The narrow rubber was prone to tramlining though, tugging the tiller left and right with ease.There is one particular section that can be a nuisance for larger off-roaders due to overhangs reducing approach and departure. In 4WD Low, the Jimny was judiciously entered into the dip, and simply crawled out at the other end without a blink. Hill Descent Control was engaged for some downhill testing and although perhaps descending a little too quickly it did at least engage.And The Warranty Is:
Three years or 100,000 kilometres. Have your Suzuki serviced on a capped price program every six months at a dealership over five years and Suzuki offers a five year warranty or 140,000 kilometre warranty.

At The End Of The Drive.
The 2019 Suzuki Jimny is a curious mix of wannabe and nothing to prove. Sure, there’s that safety rating but part of that is due to the exterior design, meaning the pedestrian impact safety rating is down. It’s painfully soft and wafty on tarmac, but has enough goods to delight on gravel and rock and mud. It’s a “proper” four wheel drive thanks to the transfer case but really needs a dose of torque. It’s a car, frankly, that will appeal to those under thirty or to those that wish to relive their late ’80s youth. Neither is a bad thing. Here is where you can find out more.

Car Review: 2019 Renault Trafic Crew Life LCV

This Car Review Is About:
The 2019 Renault Trafic Crew Life LCV (light commercial vehicle). It’s a long wheelbase version with a dedicated passenger cabin. Renault have it, at the time of writing, at a stellar $47,990 driveaway.Under The Bonnet Is:
A surprisingly torquey twin-turbo 1.6L diesel. At just 1500rpm there is 340Nm, and peak power isn’t bad either. At 3500rpm there is 103kW, although by then it’s run out of puff. The transmission fitted to the review vehicle is a slick six speed manual, driving the front wheels, that’s geared to take advantage of the torque early on to get it under way. There is no auto option. Economy is rated as 6.2L/100km, and the final figure of over 420km for a quarter tank (80L volume) consumed speaks volumes. And that’s with a dry weight of 1,736 kilos.
On The Outside It’s:
A van. Yes, it’s stating the obvious but sometimes the obvious is all there is. From front and rear perspectives its virtually cubical. From a side profile the long wheelbase (3,498mm inside an overall 5,399mm)is readily apparent, as is the elegantly profiled nose, complete with bonnet. This makes accessing the engine easier and provides a higher measure of impact protection. Front overhang is 938mm, with a rear overhang of 968mm.

The body in white highlighted the tinted windows fitted to the left and right hand side sliding doors which aren’t remotely operable. The windows themselves house slightly tricky sliding windows, and pull down sun shades. Overall cargo is rated as six cubic metres for the standard LWB, four metres for the crew cab version.
The alloy wheels are 17 inches in diameter and are wrapped in commercial spec, yet very comfortable and grippy, rubber of 215/60 profile from Dunlop.

The non-powered tailgate is surprisingly easy to lift, with a balance point requiring little effort in order to raise it. There is also an embedded pullstrap to help lower the door.

Both driver and passenger door mirrors have a number of wide angle mirrors to back up the reverse camera and rear sensors.

On The Inside It’s:
Got seating for six. There’s adequate room up front for three, even with the protuberance for the gear selector. Underneath the centre and left seat are storage compartments which are accessed by lifting the squab. The driver’s storage has a tool kit.

The other three seats have plenty of room all around, and behind them was a bulkhead separating the passenger section from the load bay. There was just enough body flex to have the bulkhead mounts squeaking quite a bit.
Although clearly a commercial vehicle, Renault’s ergonomics cant be faulted, for the most part. The gear selector housing has some impact on the centre seat passenger, but that’s unavoidable as it’s also ideally placed to fall naturally to hand for shifting.

The starter button is quite visible, so there’s no hunting around. Switchgear is just where the body feels it needs to be, and the left mounted indicator (with auto headlights) is a fingertip away. The floor is easy to clean rubber, with driver and front passengers stepping up easily.
A handy touch or two are the inbuilt mobile phone holder and upper dash storage locker. The phone holder is engineered to twist and to extend in height with the push of a button.
The seven inch touchscreen is easy to operate and read, and there is the pleasant addition of digital radio. However, much like the Megane recently reviewed, the tuner sensitivity isn’t on par with that from other manufacturers. Having said that, overall sound quality from the door mounted speakers, partnered with a pair mounted above and behind the driver and left front passenger, delighted in their depth and clarity.

On The Road It’s:

More car like in ride and handling than it had the right to be. The front wheels are ahead of the front seats but felt as if they were directly under them. With such a long body and wheelbase there was an expectation of dragging tne rear wheels on curbs in corners. It simply didnt happen. Somehow, the knowledge of where each corner was became almost intuitive vey quickly. Not once did the length of the Trafic Life pose an issue.

Driven in the environment it was, a predominantly urban drive, and with one to four aboard, plus a week’s load of shopping, the 1.6L engine never seemed as if it would struggle in this specific kind of usage. If used in a purely commercial way, that would probably be a different story.
But that’s where the low gearing for first and second worked so well. Below 1300 or 1400 revs, the Trafic Life had little. Life, that is. But once tbe turbo spooled up there was a rapid change in tne nature of it, and the 340 torques introduced themselves with a flourish.

Further up the gears and in both town and highway driving, the Trafic Life was rarely found wanting. The engine management system has an anti-stall feature, and once or twice at traffic lights this kicked in, enabling the get-away otherwise wanted.

It’s a superb highway cruiser, and around the urban drive cycle, fourth or fifth was all that was required. Braking, too, was wonderful, with an easy to judge feel, and plenty of speed reduction quickly.
Actual ride quality was enjoyable, with a firm, but not unpleasantly so suspension setup. Matched with a quick steering rack and driven hard through the tight and twisting turns on one particular Blue Mountains thoroughfare, the Trafic Life demonstrated just how well thought out and engineered the underpinnings are.

What About Safety And Warranty?
Front and side airbags, daytime running lights, Hill Start Assist, and the mandated traction aids are standard. Renault doesn’t list AEB or distance sensing cruise control. Warranty is listed as 3 years, unlimited kilometres, with annual or 30,000 kilometre service intervals.
At The End Of The Drive.
PF handed back the 2019 Renault Trafic Life with regret. It’s a better than expected family vehicle, economic to drive, comfortable whilst doing so, and has an easy to maintain interior. In colours other than the plain white our review vehicle came in, it’d also be a reasonably handsome looker on road. And at under $50k driveaway its a screaming bargain as a people mover.

For more details on the Renault Trafic range, here is where you can find them.