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Archive for April, 2019

SUVs and Utes Globally Unstoppable

Toyota RAV4 SUV

This year is shaping up to be an exciting and interesting year for car sales in Australia.  Currently, the Toyota Hilux is selling well above even the second biggest seller: the Ford Ranger.  With over 4,500 sales in March, Toyota and there owners are loving life.  Ford Ranger during the same period sold 3721 units.  But take a look at this list and you’ll see that of the top ten models sold in Australia six of them are utes and SUVs.

  1. Toyota Hilux
  2. Ford Ranger
  3. Mitsubishi Triton
  4. Mazda3
  5. Toyota Corolla
  6. Mazda CX-5
  7. Hyundai i30
  8. Mitsubishi ASX
  9. Mitsubishi Outlander
  10. Kia Cerato

What about in the rest of the world?  Well, it continues to be true that more SUV and utes are being purchased than any other type of car in Australia and around the world.  In fact, the world’s most popular ute was not the Hilux but the Ford F-series (light truck).  Sorry Toyota lovers, but Ford takes you out globally!!  With well over 1 million F-series sold last year, that’s very impressive!  In New Zealand, Kiwis have a taste for the Ford Ranger more so than the Hilux, too.  But this isn’t about Ford being better than Toyota – just saying…

Ford F-Series

Now for redemption time for me, so as to get back on side with Toyota fans.  Last year the world’s most popular SUV was the Toyota RAV4.  It was also the most popular SUV in New Zealand.  Maybe all the rental car companies that love the robust and reliable nature of the RAV4 make up a big swag of those RAV4 global sales numbers.  The roads between Christchurch and Milford Sound are teeming with RAV4s!

So why do you think that the SUV and utes are growing so much in popularity here and around the world?  It could well be because a decade or so ago utes and SUVs were vehicles that had a bit of a hard nose to them, with a more practical bent to them.  Some utes were tremendously good at carrying loads but hideously uncomfortable to travel any longer distances with.  Today your SUV and ute still has huge practical merit but they are way more comfortable and sophisticated.  And who can argue with the SUVs ability to accommodate seven occupants?  It gets a bit difficult putting seven seats inside a stationwagon with room to spare; and just totally impossible trying to fit seven seats inside a sedan.

With these sort of stats rolling off car sales yards, one could easily say that SUVs and utes are very much taking over the world, and this regardless of rising fuel prices.

Kia Gets Spicy With HabaNiro EV Concept.

Unveiled at the Manhattan Auto Show, the HabaNiro concept is a fully-electric, all-wheel drive, four-seat wonder car with an All Electric Range (AER) of more than 300 miles/480 kilometres, level-five autonomous mode, butterfly wing doors and more advanced tech than that which helped land men on the moon.

Tom Kearns, vice president of design for Kia Design Center America, said: “We wanted this concept to be comfortable navigating city streets, carving turns on a coastal road and off-roading with confidence to remote wilderness adventures.”

With its rugged 20-inch wheels, short overhangs and big haunches, the HabaNiro exudes coiled muscularity and capability, whether you’re on a grocery run, en route to a meeting or in search of a remote fishing hole.

Says Michael Cole, KMA chief operating officer and executive vice president: “The HabaNiro is a genius work of skill and imagination. Not only does its beautiful design incorporate the needs of future mobility, but its engineering and technology anticipate the way people will want to move in the near future.”

It’s looking to be a multi-role vehicle, essentially an all-electric Everything Car or ECEV: commuter, crossover, sport utility, state-of-the-art technology workroom and adventure vehicle.

Exterior design of the 4430mm long concept sees protective metallic grey cladding encompassing the front wheels which extends onto the body sides and the bright “Lava Red” aero panel that defines the C-pillar and extends up and over the roof. This look is reinforced by the single character line that wraps around the front end, extends through the shoulder, and ends pointed at the rear wheels.

The HabaNiro grille resembles a shark’s snout, complete with a slit-like gap full of gloss black aluminium “teeth” similar to the cooling blades found on high-end electronic equipment. The EV chassis architecture allowed the wheels to be pushed to the corners, giving the HabaNiro its wide and confident stance, including the 2830mm wheelbase with 265/50/20 wheels and tyres

Satin aluminum skid plates, milled billet aluminium tow hooks, anodized Lava Red aluminium accents, and the embossed HabaNiro name complement the upscale look while suggesting the vehicle’s adventure-ready attitude.

The doors open in a similar butterfly fashion to another electric vehicle. The concept car’s Lava Red interior is said to suggest passion and vibrancy.The Lava Red interior suggests passion and vibrancy.

Contributing to the interior’s clean and modern appearance is the absence of rectangular screens and traditional control knobs and buttons. Instead, the HabaNiro features a full-width front windshield Heads-Up Display (HUD) system controlled by a concave acrylic instrument panel that is a large interactive touchpad display with Sensory Light Feedback (SLF). Technical Option Sharing System (TOSS) allows users to swipe and move vehicle options across the HUD screen as though moving chess pieces.

HabaNiro’s occupants are kept comfortable by a slim Perimeter Ventilation System (PVS) that quietly and evenly blows a curtain of air throughout the cabin. and are lit by a soft ambient glow that shines through the bold geometrically-patterned floor. The Lighting Colour Effect (LCE) can be dimmed or brightened, and the hue can be modified to impact the mood of the interior environment.

When HabaNiro’s part-time level-five autonomous driving system is engaged the steering wheel and instrument panel retract forward to provide more room for the front occupants. Media or other entertainment, such as a movie for a long highway haul, can be displayed on the full-width HUD video system. There’s plenty of interior space thanks to the 1950mm width.HabaNiro features Kia’s new Real-time Emotion Adaptive Driving (R.E.A.D.) System introduced earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show. R.E.A.D. can optimize and personalize a vehicle cabin space by analyzing a driver’s emotional state in real-time through artificial intelligence-based bio-signal recognition technology.

The technology monitors the driver’s emotional state and tailors the interior environment according to its assessment – potentially altering conditions relating to the human senses within the cabin and in turn creating a more pleasurable and safer driving experience. R.E.A.D. also enables the HabaNiro’s Eye Tracking System (ETS) with 180° rearview video display.

The system uses AI-based emotional intelligence to monitor when the driver looks up to the top of the windshield where conventional rear view mirrors are traditionally located.

The AI immediately senses the driver’s need to see behind the vehicle and instantly activates the 180° rearview video display. There are no immediate plans to utilize AI to sense when the driver is hungry and then direct to the nearest drive-through where an order will be waiting, but the technology may someday evolve to make just such a task possible.

AI and automation shouldn’t take the joy out of driving, as some auto lovers fear, but should enhance it – anticipating needs so we can concentrate on the driving experience.

Naturally, being a concept, some of these features, including the doors, are unlikely to make it into production, should Kia move ahead with it.

Renault Climbs the Mountain Again With The Alpine A110.

Renault and Alpine (pronounced Al-peen) go back well over a half century. Much like AMG, M, or Tickford and HSV, Alpine was an extension for the venerable French brand in regards to the sorts of vehicles manufactured and was originally its own marque. The originals stood out in the World Rally Championships and Le Mans 24 Hours, and were noted for the slimline design, grip, and extra lights up front. Renault officially bought out the name in 1973.

In the early 2010s, Renault put down the plans to revive the name and in 2018, the reborn Alpine A110 saw Australian tarmac for the first time.Power comes from a mid-mounted 1.8L four cylinder with 188kW. That’s good enough to see the 1100kg two door to 100kmh in just 4.5 seconds, on its way to a top whack of 250kmh. Peak torque from the lusty turbocharged donk is 320Nm, and those velocities come courtesy of that peak torque being available at 2000rpm, the sweet spot for overtaking when needed. Weight is saved by using aluminuim throughout.
Styling is dramatic. In profile there’s no doubt about the car’s heritage. It’s a teardrop shape, with a slimline A pillar, low roof, and easy to live with B pillar. The doors have a deep set scallop, and the rear end evokes classic European coupes. Rear lights are full LEDs. The rear glass burrows deep into the sides of the Alpine A110 and hide what would be an otherwise conventional coupe shape. Wheels are 18 inches in diameter and have different styles for the three models available, the Australian Premiere Edition, A110 Pure, and A110 Legende.. Inside it’s comfortable in a two door, two seater, kind of way. Leather and cloth seats feature a diamond quilt pattern in the material, which is also featured in the doors, and the seats themselves are fitted with strong bolsters. The centre console features three buttons for the gear selection, an unusual design choice, but they mirror the three dials in the binnacle for information. The Alpine also features a telematics screen that allows track day drivers to monitor their on-road and on-track prowess. There’s access to tyre pressures, power and torque display, and other forms of engine information. Pricing starts from $97K plus on-roads. The Australian Premiere Edition is limited to just 60 units and is priced from $106K plus on-roads.

Jaguar Threepeats In Major Awards.

It’s rare, if ever, that one brand and one car takes out more than one major award at one event.The Jaguar I-Pace was a triple winner in three award categories: the overall 2019 World Car of the Year, the 2019 World Green Car and the 2019 World Car Design of the Year. This is the first time in the World Car Awards’ 15-year history that one-car has achieved a win across three categories. It is the second time in 15 years that one company has achieved a triple-win. Mercedes-Benz previously attained this honour in 2015.The World Car Design of the Year category, and the corresponding award, are meant to highlight new vehicles with innovation and style that push established boundaries. This year, the cars eligible for the 2019 World Car Design of the Year award encompassed all the contenders competing in the other five award categories.

In doing so, Jaguar-Land Rover has created history. 2019 marks the third consecutive Design win for the company and the fifth time overall, having won the World Car Design of the Year award in 2018 (Range Rover Velar), in 2017 (Jaguar F-PACE), in 2012 (Range Rover Evoque) and in 2013 (Jaguar F-Type). No other car manufacturer has achieved this number of Design wins in the event’s 15 year history.

The I-Pace itself is garnering accolades where it counts. Sales of the I-Pace have reached in excess of 11,000, with customers in over 60 countries, since it was released.
The I-Pace uses a 90kWh lithium-ion battery. This can deliver a potential range of nearly 500km. There is a charge rate of flat to 80% in just 40 minutes using a 100kW DC system, or takes just over ten hours to achieve the same state of charge when using a domestic wallbox which charges at 7kW AC. This is perfect for overnight home-charging.

In respect to the design awards, The I-Pace’s mix of cab-forward profile, short overhangs and taut, muscular haunches provide a clear visual difference compared to other SUVs. There is a spacious interior thanks to the electric drivetrain, and naturally is finished with beautiful premium details and exacting Jaguar craftsmanship.
And being fully electric brings the Green Award. Prof. Dr. Ralf Speth, Chief Executive Officer, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “It is an honour that the Jaguar I-PACE has received such an accolade from the prestigious World Car jurors. For I-PACE to be awarded 2019 World Green Car gives our first all-electric vehicle the ultimate recognition it deserves. I would like to thank the team who have created I-PACE for their passion in making it so outstanding.”

Upgrades and Updates Makes Tesla Longer Lasting.

Tesla has revealed details on an update to their drive systems. Further development of their latest generation of drive unit technology raises the efficiency level to 93% which improves overall range by over 10%. Part of this comes from pairing a permanent magnet motor in the front with an induction motor in the rear.

In addition to adding range, power and torque increases significantly across all Model S and Model X variants, improving 0-100 kmh times for the Long Range and Standard Range models.

Paired with the new more efficient drivetrain design, V3 Superchargers have improved on power delivery. Model S and Model X are now capable of achieving 200 kW on V3 Superchargers, and 145 kW on V2 Superchargers. Together, these improvements enable our customers to recharge their expected range by up to 50% faster.

The air suspension system has been updated for Model S and Model X with fully-adaptive damping, giving it an ultra-cushioned feel when cruising on the highway. It also applies when using Autopilot. It’s an in-house software package  using a predictive model to anticipate how the damping will need to be adjusted based on the road, speed, and other vehicle and driver inputs. The system is fluid in its ability to adapt the suspension for the road conditions, automatically softening for more pronounced road inputs and firming for aggressive driving.

Another improvement is the leveling of the suspension system while cruising, keeping the car low to optimize aerodynamic drag. As with all of Tesla’s in-house software, the adaptive suspension can receive over-the-air updates. This ensures the latest information can be made available as soon as possible.

Wheel bearings and new tyre tread designs are being added to the range to improve range, ride, and steering.

Rivian Electric Ute Confirmed For Down Under.

As companies move to battery powered vehicles, questions are coming out about the recreational side. As most are looking at cars or passenger style SUV body types, it’s a fair question.

United States company Rivian is one that is going outside the standard passenger car box. A dual cab ute, the R1T is the start, with a seven seater Range Rover looking SUV, R1S, are both currently slated for full production in 2020. Brian Gase, the chief engineer for Rivian and a visitor to Australia on a regular basis, says that the brand wants to get these cars to Australia as soon as possible. “Yes we will have an Australian launch,” Gase said. “And I can’t wait to come back to Australia and show this to all of those beautiful people.” The company itself must be doing something right, as there is a US$700 million investment from Amazon, and a recently announced US$500 million injection from Ford.Like Tesla’s Model S and Model X, the pair will share the same underpinnings. Unlike Tesla, they’ll have an engine for each wheel. Rivian quotes 560kW and 1120Nm of torque. A common floorpan also allows simultaneous development of right and left hand drive models. Gase says: “The truck makes sense in the Australian market. We see significant value, particularly with the SUV in right-hand drive markets. And we’ve commonised everything on the vehicles forward of the B-pillar, so by default, getting a right-hand-drive truck is a low barrier, because I’ve got a right-hand-drive SUV.”

The actual timing for release depends on the production schedule at the Illinois factory. Gase says: “The ‘when’ is a tough question. How do you pick the right strategic markets on what’s core to your brand, where you’re going to see sales? And that’s why Australia is so exciting to us because you guys share a lot of the off-road and nature values that I think we have as a company. And you’re not on Italian narrow roads where this vehicle is a harder footprint to fit in.”

Payload is expected to be 800kg for the four door ute, and should pack a 350mm ride height. All wheel drive means fantastic grip and Gase says 45 degree slops should be driveable. 0 to 100kmh times should be around the 3.0 second bracket. Expected range is currently around 640km. Prices for Australia are yet to be set, however US pricing starts at $69K for the R1T, and US$74K for the R1S.

 

 

Car Review: 2019 Tesla Model X 100D

This Car Review Is About:
One of the two vehicles currently available from Tesla. The Model S and Model X are very closely related and come with a choice of drive combinations. A new model, a smaller car called Model 3 is scheduled for Australian release from July 2019. The vehicle tested is the non-P 100D. P for Performance, 100 for the kiloWatt hour drive, D for Dual motor (or, if you will, all wheel drive). The Model X can be specified with different seating configurations and the test vehicle was fitted out as a six seater. What About The Dollars?
Cost for the car tested started at $129,500. Metallic paint is $2,100, with the big black wheels $7,800. The seating colour scheme was $2,100 with the dash trim, a dark ash wood look, a standard no-cost fitment. It’s the electronic bits that add on, with the full self driving option and auto-pilot $7,100 and $4,300 each. With options fitted, Luxury Car Tax, and GST, plus charges such as government taxes, the car as tested came to $186,305.

Under The Bonnet Is:
Empty space. Yup, the Tesla Model X has a “frunk”, a front trunk, or in Aussie speak, a front boot. It’s big enough for a travel case of hiding the home charge cable that Tesla supplies. The engines for the 100D are located underneath at the front and rear, and engage via a single speed transmission. It’s this combination that gives the Tesla Model X startling acceleration, and in Ludicrous mode, a drive option available in the “P” designated cars, it’s quicker again. Call it three seconds to 100kph and you’d be on the money.On The Inside Is:
A choice of seating options. The test car came fitted with a white leather covered set of six seats. The three pairs all have their own form of power adjustment. Up front the driver has fore and aft movement, seat back adjustment, and lumbar support. The middle row are also adjustable for fore and aft, allowing access to the rear seats. However they do not have seat back adjustment. The third row are powered in a slightly different way, with a button locking or releasing them for raising or lowering.

Tesla fit a massive, vertically oriented, 17 inch touchscreen that houses virtually all of the functions. Audio, navigation, music access, air-conditioning, doors, car features, settings, online user manual, and some special features are all here. The map system is from Google and rendered in superb high definition on the screen. Drive orientation is in the upper right corner and can be set to swivel in direction or North as a permanent upper orientation.The overall front section presence is clean, uncluttered, traditional even. The driver’s binnacle has a full colour LCD screen that shows information such as energy usage, map, radio, and more. The steering column is perhaps the weakest part ergonomically. A left hand side indicator sits above the cruise control lever and both can be easily confused for the other as they’re very close together. The drive engage lever is on the right and is simple in operation.The centre row seats move forward and as they close towards the front seats gradually nose downwards to allow access to the rear. The rears are not adjustable for anything other than folded or not. Behind them is another storage locker with a lift away cover that otherwise provides a flat floor.The touchscreen itself houses “easter eggs”. At the top centre of the screen is a “T” symbol. Hold that for a second or two and a graphic that describes the individual car shows. A second or two later a screen appears above that and has an Atari games symbol, a Mars map symbol, a reindeer, a Christmas tree ornament and others. The Atari symbol brings up five games including Asteroids and Missile Command. The reindeer has the car’s driver display show a Father Christmas and sleigh, and rings Christmas bells on the indicator stalk. There is also an “emissions testing” icon that brings a grin to every ten year old boy when a sub-menu of different farts comes up.

On The Outside Is:
The extended roof version of the Model S. Extended as in the Model S formed the basis for the Model X. A higher roof line houses the famous folding gull wing doors, and there’s another part of the delight. When the Christmas ornament is pressed from the easter egg list, it invites the passengers to exit, and close the doors. A few seconds later if it works, as it’s sometimes hit or miss, the front windows roll down, the superb sound system pumps up, and the exterior LED lights up front flash in synchronisation. The doors themselves open and flap in unison and it is one unbelievably entrancing sight to see.The rear view sees an embedded airfoil otherwise the same looking tail lights at Model S. The nose is slightly different but unmistakeably Model S. The footprint is huge, with fan shaped alloys painted in black spanning 22 inches in diameter. Rubber is Goodyear Eagle and are 285/35.

The doors are normally hinged at the front, gull winged for the rear, and the driver’s door can be set to open on the approach of a person carrying the Tesla key fob. Unlike the Model S the door handles don’t extend out from the body, and require a firm press on the handle or via the key fob individually. A tap or two on the top can open or close all doors.

On The Road It’s:
A mix of elation and mild levels of meh. The meh is the steering feel. Although there are three drive modes that change the weight of the steering, it feels artificial and isolated. That’s not unexpected in such a technologically oriented vehicle. But that’s the worst of the on-road feels.

The time with the Model X coincided with a trip from the Blue Mountains to Bega via Canberra. Door to door it’s just on 500 kilometres. The full charge range of the Model X is knocking on 480km. An app that can be installed into your smartphone shows, once the car is linked to your account, the range expected, and when charging, the charge rate and charge distance. The AMOUNT of charge can also be adjusted, from zero through to 100%, with 80% being the default.

All Tesla cars come with a charge cable to hook the car up to a home’s electric network and Tesla themselves provide a higher output charge station to their buyers. These charge at 7 to 8 kilometres of range per hour. The first stop was at the supercharger portal in Goulburn. That’s a two hour drive with a supercharger near Canberra airport approximately another hour away. Superchargers will add in somewhere between 350km to 400km of range in an hour according to the app.Cooma is the next supercharger stop, another hour or so from Canberra, and this one is in an off the main road and not entirely welcoming location. It’s a set of six in a carpark entrance for a shopping complex, and on our visit half of the supercharger bays were taken up by non electric cars. The drives gave us a chance to properly evaluate, in a real world, family usage situation, and although the range expectations were one thing, proper usage delivers another.

Cargo was two adults, two children, a small dog, and a few overnight bags. Then there is the weight of the car and the topography to consider. Autopilot and cruise control were engaged and a small point on the autopilot. The lever needs to be pulled toward the driver twice to engage, and the cameras strategically embedded around the car will then “read” the roadsides in order to keep the Model X as centred as possible. The autopilot function itself was in “Beta” testing mode and again accessed via the touchscreen.The biggest appeal of the the Model X, and Model S, for that matter, is the sheer driveability of the chassis and drivetrain. Electric motors deliver torque constantly, as per this and acceleration across any driving condition is stupendous. The “P” designation adds in “Ludicrous” mode, which amps up the “get up and go” even further. Engage the drive, and it’s a double pull to bring the car out of hibernation mode, and plant the foot. That mountain you could see on the horizon is suddenly there before you.

The braking system can be set for two energy harvest levels and on the ten kilometres worth of downhill running at Brown Mountain, some forty kilometres west of Bega, added an effective twenty kilometres of range. It’s the uphill runs that pull the range expectations downwards, and severely at that. The ever-growing network of destination chargers alleviate range anxiety and a visit to the beautiful coastal town of Merimbula found a destination charger at a bayside motel. The navigation system can provide locations of chargers and when a destination charger shows, a tap of the screen advises the usage, as in in this case, passing through holiday makers. A big thanks to the good people at the Albacore Apartments, by the way. There are two Tesla destination chargers and these add range at 75 to 80 kilometres per hour.

The return trip was via Cooma without stopping and heading to Canberra’s Madura Parkway charge stop. Handily located next to a major fast food store and a number of other shops, an hour’s break saw the Model X arrive back at its Blue Mountains lair with perhaps 70km worth of range left.

Actual ride quality is on the high side of decent considering the size of the wheels and low profile rubber. Ride height can be ajusted via the touchscreen but a high ride setting lowers the car back to its standard height once a preset speed is reached. The Model X is stiff but not bone-shakingly so, taut, but not uncomfortably so. It’s flat, exhibits minimal body roll, and is surprisingly compliant on unsettled and rough surfaces. And although the steering lacks “humanity” it also points the Model X exactly where the wheel tells it to. Naturally, brake feel is spot on too.

The Safety Systems Are:
A solid list of 360 degree cameras, parking sensors that measure in millimetres and show on the driver’s screen, distance sensing radar cruise control, AEB, overhead and knee airbags, plus the usual electronic driver aids. The cruise control can be set to one to seven seconds of distance between the Model X and the car ahead. It’s worth noting that the braking can be on the hard side so driver involvement is still required to watch the road ahead. The same goes with the autonomous steering. Hands on the tiller are recommended at all times.

And The Warranty Is:
Four years for the body and structure. The drive systems and battery get eight years. Extra information is here.

At The End Of The Drive.
The timing of the drive came just after the leader of the Australian Opposition party put forward a proposition that by 2030 fifty percent of cars to be made available for sale be electric. Naturally this sparked the conversation about costs, range, and the time taken to recharge versus refueling a petrol or diesel car.

There’s an undeniable time factor in regards to recharging. But there is a welcome upside. The Goulburn stop provided an opportunity to visit a street mall, the Cooma break a visit to a park with historic significance. The Merimbula stop provided a chance to sample the local lifestyle and the Canberra stop a welcome half way point, lunch, and a leg stretch. The Model X itself is not a tiring car to drive meaning driver fatigue is minimised.

Therein, as the saying goes, lies the rub. The return trip from Bega took as much time as a normal petrol/diesel powered trip, even allowing for the hour or so to recharge. The upside was the break allowing a safe, straight through, return drive and the lack of fatigue from driving a comfortable vehicle. The downside was the evidence that range expectations versus the real world have some way to go before the two meet with a lesser margin in between.

And yes, the cost is significant, especially with the extra Australian government charges involved. However there are plenty of cars that start at the same price and offer an extensive option list. And there is the fluctuating cost of fuel. Depending on location it is theoretically possible to not pay a cent in recharge costs with an electric car.

Tesla will be releasing a lower cost version, effectively, of the Model S, and a new, smaller, SUV called the Model Y is in development. With battery technology improving and the uptake of solar power and batteries for home usage also on the upswing, plus the promise of further electric cars as standard from makers, they all mean that for the Australian market our driving future is in for an undeniable change.

Model X information and more on the other cars from Tesla can be found here.

2020 Toyota Kluger Revealed.

Toyota has released details of the forthcoming Kluger. It stays with a petrol engine, doesn’t add a diesel, but does go to a hybrid drivetrain. The petrol V6 engine, at 3.5L and recently updated to provide 220kW, will be bolted to an eight-speed auto while the hybrid benefits from a new generation 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine matched to a hybrid powertrain.

This is shared with the current Camry range. A torque split system in the all wheel drive versions will have a mainly front drive bias, but can send up to 50% of torque to the rear as required. A torque vectoring system will add extra agility, with splits between left and right as well as front to rear.Overall, the Kluger looks familiar but is virtually a new design from the ground up. It’s slipperier which means wind and road noise should be lowered, plus a more aerodynamic shape should add extra kilometres of range per litre of fuel. The design is part of the Toyota New Generation global Architecture, or TNGA.

It will be longer by 60mm than the soon to be superseded model, allowing better access to the second and third row seats, and increasing room all around. This includes an extra 30mm slide length for the second row seats. There will be plenty of safety tech on board to protect the occupants as well.Autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and speed-sign recognition are expected to be standard equipment. Also expected is a 12.3 inch touchscreen, and it’s fair to expect that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will be embedded. Outside is a slimmer, more streamlined body and will roll on 20 inch wheels for the first time.

Released at the 2019 New York Motor Show, details of on-sale date and price for Australia are yet to be confirmed.

 

 

The EV From Down Under

We were all very sad when we got the news that those iconic Australian cars – Ford and Holden – were no longer going to be manufactured here and that the factories were closing their doors. However, we can all smile again for the sake of the Australian automotive industry: a new company in Queensland is going to manufacture a car from scratch.  Great!

There’s a slight difference with this newcomer, though. Unlike the gas-guzzling Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores (OK, they were a bit better when driven on the open road but that’s another story altogether), this new company, ACE EV, is turning its eyes to the hot new sector of the automotive industry: electric cars.

Well, to be more specific, it’s going in for electric vans and commercial vehicles as well as cars.  And, to be fair, the factory is going to be using some parts that were manufactured overseas as well as a few made here.  The idea is to keep the costs down.  They’re not out to produce Tesla clones at Tesla prices.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Tesla per se and it’s neat to see electric vehicles that have bust out of the boring, crunchy-granola, wimpy image and become supercool.  However, a brand new Tesla probably costs more than what I paid for my house.  ACE EV, however, wants to make EVs more affordable for the typical tradie or suburban family.

ACE EV stands for “Australian Clean Energy Electric Vehicles”.  Proudly Australian, their logo features a kangaroo on the move.  This year (2019), they are launching three vehicles, targeting tradies as well as your typical urban motorist, although they’re only selling them to companies as fleet vehicles at this stage.  These are the ACE Cargo, the ACE Yewt and the ACE Urban.

ACE Cargo

The Cargo is designed to, um, carry cargo.  It’s a van that’s capable of carrying a payload of 500 kg and has a range of 200 km if it’s not carrying the full load. The Cargo is designed to be suitable for couriers and anybody who has to carry gear or people from one side of town to the other: florists, caterers, cleaners, nurses and the people who carry blood samples from the medical centre to the lab for analysis. Looks-wise, it’s broken out of the square box mould of traditional vans, probably for aerodynamic reasons, and resembles a single-cab ute with a hefty canopy.

Ace Yewt

Which brings us neatly to the Yewt.  The Yewt is what it sounds like (say Yewt out loud if you haven’t got it yet). It’s a flat-deck single-cab ute and as it’s got more or less the same specs as the Cargo regarding load, charge time and acceleration. You’d be forgiven for thinking that t it’s the same thing as the Cargo but with the cover on the cargo area taken off.  It’s something of a cute ute – and the contrasting colour roof is a nice touch.

Last but not least, there’s the Urban, which is no relation to the Mitsubishi with the notoriously weird name (Active Urban Sandal).  This one’s still in the pipeline and they haven’t given us the full specs brochure yet (it’s due for release later this year), but this is a classic four-seater compact three-door hatch that looks a bit like a classic Mini but edgier.

It’s certainly nice to see some new vehicles made in Australia for Australians, especially given that in a recent poll, about half of all Australians in an official survey by the Australia Institute would support a law that all new cars sold after 2025 should be EVs.  However, let’s not rush things too much yet.  For one thing, EVs are only one of the Big Three when it comes sustainable motoring (biofuels and hydrogen are the others).  The other thing is that all energy has to come from somewhere, even electricity, as stated by the First Law of Thermodynamics.  This means that in order to charge your EV, you’re going to have to generate the electricity somehow and get it to the charging points.  Before we go over lock, stock and barrel to EVs, we will need better infrastructure, and I don’t just mean more EV charging points around town and in our homes.  We’ll need some more generators.  Otherwise, it would be like setting up a bowser but having no petrol to put in it.  If everybody were to try charging their EVs at home overnight, there would be a massive drain on the national grid and we’d be getting brownouts and blackouts all over the show –which means that watching TV, catching up on your emails, having a hot shower and cooking dinner would get rather difficult – and you wouldn’t be able to charge your EV either.  Guess where the power companies will have to get the money from in order to build new power plants – that’s right: your power bill.

May I humbly suggest that before you invest in an EV for your commute that you also consider installing a solar panel or three on your home?  Or a wind generator?  Not one of those petrol or diesel-powered generators – swapping an internal combustion engine in your car for one in the back yard isn’t better for the environment now, is it?  Unless you run it on biofuel or hydrogen.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 SsangYong Rexton Limited.

This Car Review Is About: The redesigned SsangYong Rexton. It’s part of a three model range from the Korean car maker, with the Musso and Tivoli the other two. The Tivoli is to be replaced by a name semi-familiar to Australians in the form of Korando. Under The Bonnet Is: A diesel engine for the Limited. The Euro6 compliant 2.2L pumps 133kW and 420Nm through a Mercedes sourced eight speed auto, down to the rear wheels or all four in a high and low range choice. The transfer case is engaged via an electronically operated system, accessed by a jog dial in the console. The torque is available from 1600 through to 2600rpm. Go for the petrol fed powerplant in the lower models and the gearbox is from Aisan.

Combined fuel consumption is rated as 10.4L/100km, with 13.9L/100km in the urban drive cycle. Get out on the highway and SsangYong says 8.4L/100km. We finished on 10.9L/100km from the 70L tank for a mainly urban drive.

On The Inside Is: A superbly appointed cabin, complete with a diamond stitched quilt pattern in the leather adorning the seats and dash. There is a splash of faux wood in a grey plastic which both contrasts and complements, somehow, the dash design. Otherwise, there is a swathe of alloy hued accents in the doors housing the tweeters for the sound system and the three memory settings for the driver’s seat. The seats themselves are super comfortable, with plenty of padding and support. Heating and venting is a smart choice for the Australian spec cars and there’s heating to a Goldilocks temperature steering wheel. It’d be even better if the tiller itself was thicker to hold. It’s a seven seater too, with the third row fully folding and easy to operate via the pull strap system. The rear windows have privacy glass and do a great job of keeping Sol’s UV rays at bay from the side.

The centre dash section is akin to the other Korean brands. A clean layout to the switchgear for the anciliary controls and again in an alloy look adds an extra touch of class. The eight inch touchscreen looks good but doesn’t have satnav, nor does the audio side feature DAB. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay stand up to offer those services instead. The driver has a full colour screen as well, and the speedometer offers three different looks, along with tyre pressures, audio, and more. The gear selector has a toggle switch for manual shifts, and its both plasticky in feel and a little awkward to operate. There’s also a 360 degree camera view system installed and Rexton gets LED lights inside and out, including the glowing sill plates.The rear and middle rows get their own aircon controls, with the cargo section seats having a simple dial and a pair of twist operated vents. There’s a separate cargo cover that’s a bit fiddly to operate. The centre row gets an additional extra, a power socket that for the Aussie market needs an adaptor if you’re looking to plug in a cooling unit or a generator. A cooling unit isn’t a bad idea, in context, as the full length glass roof in the Limited has a thin white cloth shade and heat builds up quite easily.On The Outside:Is a completely revamped look. It’s not unfair to say the SsangYongs seen previously were ugly, very ugly. The Rexton looks more like a “traditional” SUV and is a big unit at that. It stands over 1.8m, is knocking on the five metre long mark, and is close to two metres wide. This adds up to plenty of interior space and an imposing presence on road. Rubber is big and comes from Kumho. Wheels are chromed alloys and the package on the Limited is 255/50/20.

The doors and wing mirrors feature LED lighting and the headlights have high intensity discharge lamps, as well as LED driving lights. It’s a far more cohesive look than the previously far too angular version Black urethane highlights the wheel arches and joins each end along the body. Some gentle curves in the sheetmetal lend an extra softness to the look, and draw the eye towards the front doors. The rear door is power operated and opens up to reveal a maximum of 1806L of space when the rear and centre rows are folded. Access to the centre and front seats is easy thanks to the wide opening doors but a little bit of gymnastics is required otherwise to enter the rear.Out On The Road It’s: An 80/20 mix. Eighty percent pretty good, dragged back by the twenty percent not so. Of real note is the horrendous lag from a standing start. Even though there is 420Nm available from just 1600rpm, getting the engine and turbo to spool up feels like watching paint trying to dry on a damp autumnal day. It’s an unusual feeling considering most diesels now don’t have that gap between the press of the pedal and forward motion. Once on tap though, the Rexton, which weighs around 2100kg, has some seriously good hustle.Load up the go pedal with a heavy right foot, and the drive system gets that 420Nm through to the rear rubber which will happily chirp the tune of wheelspin momentarily. The traction control gives it a second or two before there is the briefest of powerflow interruptions and the big rubber hooks up. The steering then becomes the second part of the equation. It’s a loosely connected sensation, with what feels like a half turn for a quarter turn of the front wheels left and right. There is a mechanical feeling to it, with a sensation of no damping in the setup. This means that the road surface and the engine’s vibrations are transmitted through and there is extra steering movement and adds a measure of twitchiness.

The ride is on the hard side, but doesn’t mean it’s either sporting or uncomfortable. Flat roads are great but find a bump or ridge and there’s less than expected give in the way the body rebounds. Think of the bump-thump your car has and add extra bump. It also means that body roll is virtually existent and the more rapid changes of direction have the Rexton Limited sitting flat. It’s a coil sprung front and a multi-link rear.Braking becomes the last part of that 20%, with a lack of feedback, a soft travel, and a real need to press down to get a sense of retardation. Along with the turbo lag, it adds up to needing to plan a little more than should be needed when it comes to moving the big machine around. Balancing that is the excellent response to the accelerator. When the revs are right in the sweet spot, response time is on point, and the Mercedes sourced seven speeder slurs through efficiently, quickly, quietly.

What About The Safety? No problems here. AEB and Forward Collision Warning go hand in hand, as do Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Detection. Lane Change Assist and High Beam Assist, along with a full suite of airbags including kneebag for the driver ensure the Rexton Limited is a safe office. Tyre pressure monitoring is on board and available as a visual option in the driver’s display.And The Warranty?There has to be something in the water in Korea, as SsangYong go up against Kia by offering seven years. Whack on unlimited kilometres, a good service schedule and pricing, plus seven years of roadside assistance.

At The End Of The Drive:If there’s any real indication of Korean car companies improving quicker than anticipated, it’s SsangYong. Given what the brand offered just a few years ago across the range, this car, the Rexton Limited, and the others such as the Musso four door ute and Tivoli small SUV, to be replaced by the shape of Korando, the brand is on a sharply upwards inclined trajectory. Ignore this one at your peril. Here is where to find out more.