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Archive for August, 2019

The Perfect Form of Transport???

Here at Private Fleet, we keep an eye on trends in car design and the way things are shaping up.  At the moment, I reckon there are three biggies: fuelling systems, autonomous vehicles and sensors.

Let’s start with fuel.  We all know that the supplies of crude oil aren’t as big as they used to be and the ones that are left are frequently in places that are very hard to get at or are located in politically volatile countries.  This means that if we can cut down our dependence on non-renewable fuels, we’ll be able to keep on trucking the way we’re accustomed to.  We’ll also help cut down on greenhouse gases, which is supposed to stop global warming or climate change.

In our quest to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we’re trying a bunch of different things, all of which are getting a lot of attention in the automotive world.  Electricity is the hottest one at the moment, with a major push towards EVs and hybrids that use both electricity and petrol.  However, that’s only one of the three.  Just as well, as one has to ask where the electricity is coming from and how it’s being generated.  If it’s being pumped out by coal- or gas-fuelled power stations, then EVs aren’t the perfect green solution.  The other hot topic in fuel is to look for other things that can be used to make diesel and petrol that are renewable – biofuels.  The trick here is to find something that can be grown without taking land and water resources away from what we need to feed a hungry world.  Lastly, there’s the hydrogen fuel cell option, which doesn’t produce much in the way of waste but is a little on the fiddly side to produce and transport, although they’re working on that.

All in all, this suggests that the perfect transport of the future should be able to run on something sustainable that’s easy to get hold of, and that it should produce minimal waste, or at least waste that can be useful for another purpose.

The second hot topic is the all the innovations being added as active safety features and driver aids.  There seems to be a new one out every time I turn around.  Temperature sensors for automatic climate control, 360° vision and reverse parking sensors are old hat. Now we’ve got side impact detection and avoidance, lane change assistance, autonomous braking, even systems that detect when the driver is getting tired or annoyed.  They’re working on getting the car to listen to you, with voice activated commands for all sorts of things.

This suggests that the perfect transport of the future should have a ton of sensors for all sorts of things, should be able to react according to the input of those sensors without the driver having to do anything, and should be able to interface with the moods of the driver.

Lastly, we’ve got the topic of autonomous cars: ones that will steer themselves, pick the right speed, pick the right part of the road and all the rest of it all by themselves.  This is closely related to the improvements in sensors and driver aids.  If autonomous cars reached their full perfection, you’d be able to hop in when well and truly under the influence, tell it to go home and then nod off until you find yourself parked outside the front door.

If we all of these factors together, we can get an idea of what the designers are trying to come up with.  Let’s imagine what it would look like: something that runs on plant-sourced fuels and produces biodegradable waste that can be converted to fertilizer; has ultra-sensitive sensors for temperature, mood and upcoming hazards in practically a full circle; is voice activated and even does voice-activated acceleration and parking; and can think for itself even when the driver is exhausted or drunk.  Natural materials for the upholstery and a cheap production method would be an advantage as well.  It already exists: when I was a child in a rural town, we called this a HORSE.

2019 Toyota 86 GTS Manual and Auto – Private Fleet Car Review

This Car Review Is About: Toyota’s joint venture with Subaru, the two door sports coupe Toyota call 86. In this case we drove, back to back, the 86 GTS Manual with Dynamic Sports Pack, and the 86 GTS Auto.How Much?: The GTS Manual with Dynamic Sports Pack is priced from $43,534 driveaway with the “standard” GTS priced from $40,497. The Manual has Apollo Blue paint, a specialist colour for this model and trim, with the Auto being clad in White Liquid. Metallics are a $500 option. The auto is $42,866 with Ignition Red, $43,381 with the Liquid White.

Under The Bonnet Is: Subaru’s fabulous flat or “boxer” four. Peak power is 147kW (auto) and 152kW (manual) from the 2.0L capacity engine, with peak twist being either 205Nm or 212Nm. There are slightly different cog ratios in the manual as compared to the auto, with the manual’s final drive at 4.3:1, compared to 4.1:1 with the auto. Peak power is at a lofty 7,000rpm, with that peak torque found between 6,400rpm to 6,600rpm in the auto, 6,800rpm in the manual. In order to get those figures the engine is tuned to run on 98RON. Economy is quoted at 7.1L/100km or 8.4L/100km for the auto and manual on the combined cycle. Due to the physical size of the 86, fuel tank capacity is just 50L. We returned figures in largely urban driving of 7.9L/100km for the auto and 8.6km/100km for the manual. Gross vehicle masses are 1,670kg (auto) and 1,700kg (manual) with dry weights between 1,250kg to 1,280kg.On The Inside It’s: a nightmare for rear seat passengers, a tight squeeze for front seat passengers, and a harken back to “the glory days” of Toyota with a retro look and feel to the cabin’s design. The front seats use a lever method for moving the seats forward to allow access to the rear, but they also use levers for seat back and height adjustment, not the preferable electric or at least “roller dial” adjustment. They are heated via a two position switch but only for the squab, not the whole seat.The GTS spec has Alcantara trim on the doors and dash for a little extra comfort, plus carpeted floor mats which also add a little extra sound deadening. Pedals are alloy with rubber tabs for the retro look and aiding shoe grip. The dash dials are fully analogue with a small 4.2 inch LCD screen set at the bottom right. This provides oil and coolant temperatures, G-force instant and history, a power and torque delivery graph, and more. The main screen is 6.1 inches in measurement and is a modern look on a retro theme. There’s a solid black surround, a CD player slot, and AM/FM only, meaning no DAB. Satnav, reverse camera, and streaming apps are standard.The actual look is of dials and toggle switches. It’s meant to evoke a sense of looking back in time and it works. The dual zone climate control, the air intake for fresh/recirculate, even the glowing red LEDs for the clock and temperature displays, are all “olde timey” in look. The centre console plastics are a chintzy silver plastic and have the traction control tabs embedded. Both have the standard push button Start/Stop and that’s visually obvious by being located in the bottom right corner of the centre console stack. And for those that prefer mechanical stopping, a proper hand brake is employed.The dash is a sweeping design that joins both doors in an arc and wave and has the centre airvents looking not unlike a impulse engine housing from a starship. The top of the dash binnacle and the flat panel have the Alcantara trim, and there is a subtle silver hue to the airvent surrounds. That colour is also wrapping the gear selector. Thankfully, both headlights and wipers are Auto on. There are a couple of centre console cup/bottle holders, and just enough room in the door pockets for a bottle. The boot is also surprisingly big, and coped well enough with a weekly shop. For its more obvious audience, a couple or single, it’s ideal for an overnight bag or two.On The Outside It’s: Largely unchanged from the original model however a very mild facelift was applied in 2016. Tail lights are LED as are the headlight cluster driving lights. There are aerodynamic strakes in the lower quarters of the front bumper around the globe lit driving lights. The chin of the front bumper has been subtly restyled, and there are even thin strakes on the outer edges of the plastic at the bottom of the windscreen for air guidance.

The GTS Manual with Dynamic Sports pack comes with Brembo brakes and red calipers, Sachs suspension, and bespoke 17 inch black alloys. Rubber is from Michelin and is 215/45/17. There’s a small rear wing for both. The manual has it in full black whilst the auto was in black with body coloured end plates. There are twin exhaust tips and both are chromed. Indicators are embedded in the leading edge of the front wheel arches which also extend into the line of view from the driver’s seat. The auto also featured the excellent Brembo stoppers. Just a breath on the brake pedal has the Brembos applying grip, and with a beautifully modulated pedal, the driver can judge perfectly a “slow in fast out”corner drive.On The Road It’s: A huge amount of fun. Deliberately designed with a mix of skatiness and grip, the low centre of gravity, relatively thin rubber, and taut suspension make for a car that is always feeling like it’s ready to break loose. Get it onto a road that has more corners than straights and the chassis immediately shows why it delivers smiles in spades.

Although peak power and torque figures are north of 6,000rpm, the gearing and the engines are perfectly matched to give, if not true outright zip, a very good semblance of it. Because the driver sits so low to to the ground too, there’s a sense of higher speed. That’s helped by a raspy metallic induction note, especially in the auto with the longer gearing. On that point, the auto sees 100kmh/110kmh at 1,000rpm lower than the manual. 100kmh in the manual is 2,700rpm, 3,000rpm for 110kmh. Toyota’s head of PR, Orlando Rodriguez, advised that the manual was the pick for buyers and when the slight facelift in 2016 was applied, the change to the manual’s engine tune and final drive was applied due to the higher sales volumes. The auto’s driveline was left untouched.The manual is more manic to drive and the transmission changes have added faster acceleration times. The gear change is a combination of a definitive selector mechanism and a clutch that allows the driver to find JUST the right point to engage and slingshot away. Revs are dialled up, the left foot lifts to engage the clutch, and there’s a fine point where the rest of the travel upwards, and the accelerator’s pedal goes downwards, that works almost like a launch control. There is no clutch slippage, the narrow rubber hooks into the tarmac, and it’s off.

The auto is, naturally, easier to get under way and is by no means locked out of the fun facts. Left to its own devices it’s good enough, but use the paddle shifts or gear selector for a manual change, and it’s noticeably quicker, sharper, crisper. The selector in the manual is notchy, precisely metallic in feel, not unexpectedly, with a gate mechanism that tells the driver “yes, this is second, yes, this is third”. Reverse is a lift of a lock-out lever and across, and this too is definitive in its engagement and movement. Both have a suspension that tends towards the harder side of ride, with the Dynamic Sports Pack adding a hint more of the sharper edge. It’s the sort of feel that would have the Michelin rubber roll over a coin and tell you not only is it a five cent piece, it’s heads up and made in 1991. But neither are excessively uncomfortable, even with the rear end kicking up a corner every now and then. There is just enough “give” to dial out the upper end of the harshness. The dimensions of the 86 help with handling. It’s shorter than it looks, at 4,240mm and squeezes in a 2,570mm wheelbase.

Steering is thought process quick, with a lock to lock of just three turns. Think your way through a corner and the wheel points the broad nose exactly where it should be. Once the seating position has been sorted, and it really would be easier with the roller dial adjustment, not the levers, the car becomes an extension, and that’s how a good sports car or car with more sporting pretensions than others, should feel. Although it’s not the roomiest of cabins, there’s enough for the left arm to grab the manual gear selector, both arms to be just at the right angle to steer and not be cramped or over-extended, and therefore that steering becomes the extension.What About Safety?: Camera for reverse, seven airbags, hill start assist, and the mandated driver aids.And The Warranty Is? Toyota announced in January of 2019 that passenger cars would receive a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which could be bumped to seven years on the engine and drivetrain on “properly maintained vehicles” that are equipped with genuine Toyota parts.

At The End Of The Drive: The joint venture between Toyota and Subaru has provided a car that has found itself a strong niche. There is a bespoke motorsport series, the car is used in driver training, and drivers that have either one will acknowledge another driver. It’s a car that feels as if it needs more power however the chassis is tuned to take advantage almost perfectly of what there is. It’s also the kind of car that has a set audience and those that appreciate what its intention is, will be the ones that extract every erg of enjoyment from the drive. On a cost effective or “bang for your buck” basis, for a dollar per smile, at $40 to $45K, it’s a bargain. The Toyota website is where more information can be found.

Pencil Sharp BMW M240i

BMW Australia has managed to negotiate a super sharp driveaway price for its stonking M240i coupe. With deliveries due to start for Q4, buyers will look at $74,900 as a driveaway starting price. Standard inclusions make for a long list.

Up front is their M Performance TwinPower Turbo 6-cylinder in-line petrol engine. Peak power is 250kW of power with peak twist rated as 500Nm of torque. It’s quick, with a 0-100kmh of 4.6 sec. Drive gets to the tarmac via an 8 speed Sport Automatic gearbox, and the car rides on their proprietary Adaptive M Suspension with stopping power thanks to the M Sport brakes. The driver connects with the road through the variable sport steering, including the servotronic speed-sensitive assistance. Both driver and passenger have Sports seats to park their rear in and the driver has electric adjustment and memory positioning. Both front pews are heated but not vented. Sounds are fr

 

om Harman Kardon and pump through a 12 speaker set. An 8.8 inch touchscreen houses the controls including the nav system, a 20gb solid state hard drive, and also the Connected Drive services.

Outside are Adaptive LED headlights and the signature kidney grille is finished in Cerium Grey. Mirror covers are in black. There is also high-beam assist with extra safety assistance from the BMW Driving Assistant. That includes the Approach Control Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Pedestrian Warning, light city braking function and Attentiveness Assistant. Extra goodness for the driveaway offer comes from double-spoke 18-inch M light alloy wheels, sunroof, metallic paint and a wireless charge pad for compatible smartphones. Interior trim goes to Hexagon Alcantara and Anthracite/Black upholstery. Carbon fibre interior trim and Dakota leather upholstery can also be optioned.

Buyers can choose from these exterior colours: Black Sapphire Metallic, Mineral White Metallic, Mineral Grey Metallic, Estoril Blue Metallic, Sunset Orange Metallic, and Long Beach Blue Metallic. Wheel options are double-spoke, Jet Black 18 inch M light alloy with 225/40/18s up front and 245/35/18s for the rear. There is also double-spoke style, Bi-colour Jet-Black 18inch M light alloy and 225/40 R18 for the front, with 245/35 R18 at the rear. Then there is double-spoke style, Cerium Grey Matte 18 inch M light alloy plus 225/40 R18 and 245/35 R18.

Contact us or your local BMW dealer for more details.

Renault and INFINITI Unveil Project Black.

INFINITI and the Renault F1 Team have completed the track-focused development of an unique high-performance, dual-hybrid powertrain. It’s been especially created for the INFINITI Project Black S prototype. The development work was signed off at Salzburgring in Austria by Renault F1 Team star Nico Hülkenberg, where two prototypes were put through their paces. A decision on the potential of the system for consumer use will be made by the end of this year.

The Project Black S prototype is part of an evolving collaboration between INFINITI and Renault F1 Team. It’s served as a test-bed for development of the new Formula 1 inspired powertrain technology. The latest version of the Project Black S was revealed in Paris in fall 2018. Since then, powertrain engineers from Renault F1 Team and INFINITI have developed the unique technology further, exploring whether it could be deployed in a high-performance road car. Furthermore, the program has provided an insight into how INFINITI can work hand-in-hand with partners on developing new projects and technologies.Mike Colleran, Deputy Chairman, INFINITI Motor Company, comments: “The work that has gone into Project Black S represents a milestone in INFINITI’s road to electrification. This test-bed for new ideas, and rapid development, represents everything INFINITI hopes to achieve with its electrified cars in future, such as smart energy management from advanced high-performance powertrains, a thrilling drive, and a performance aesthetic.”

Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director of Renault F1 Team, said “A technical partner to the Renault F1 team, INFINITI’s experience of working with homologated hybrid powertrain technology was instrumental in the co-development of our dual-hybrid system. The Black S project now gives us a rare opportunity for the direct transfer of genuine F1-honed technology back into a road car. Making this leap, from circuit to road, is something we are incredibly excited to be involved in”.

A key aim of the Project Black S program was to explore the potential for new motorsport-inspired electrification technologies and development processes. Project Black S fuses expertise from road and race track, with its dual-hybrid powertrain, all-new, purpose built brakes, and optimized suspensions, all complemented by the use of advanced lightweight materials throughout the purposeful new bodywork and a motorsport-inspired interior.

INFINITI’s Mike Colleran comments: “Working with Renault F1 Team has opened our eyes to new ways of working. Outside of the traditional process in which we engineer cars and technologies, this collaboration has shown us what can be achieved with a small, dedicated team. We will learn from this to enhance the way we create other cars in future.”

The Project Black S dual-hybrid powertrain technology is derived from Formula One and engineered specifically for road use. A focused, agile team of designers and engineers from the two technology partners has enabled the rapid development of testing prototypes. A test-bed based on the INFINITI Q60 sports coupe and its 400 hp VR30 twin-turbo V6 engine, the dual-hybrid system combines supercar performance with smart energy management.

The VR30 engine has been transformed with the creation of two heat-energy harvesting systems with Formula 1 relationships. There is the MGU-H or motor generator unit – heat, which develops electricity under acceleration. Paired with a kinetic harvesting system or MGU-K: motor generator unit – kinetic, that generates electricity under braking and an all-new energy management system, Project Black S is a unique and exciting electrified performance hybrid prototype.In a similar manner to Renault F1 Team’s R.S.19 racecar, the Project Black S’ smart powertrain stores this energy and discharges it as the driver requires, spooling up the turbochargers instantaneously as the driver opens the throttle, boosting power sent to the rear wheels via the MGU-K over continued periods of acceleration.

Currently, the dual-hybrid powertrain is capable of producing up to 418 kW (568 ps, 563 hp) – 40 percent more than the prototype’s donor car, the INFINITI Q60 Red Sport 400. Uniquely, it provides sustained and sustainable hybrid performance, delivering electrically assisted acceleration, lap after lap.

The prototype offers drivers complete control over how the powertrain uses this energy, with three Formula One-inspired drive modes – Road, Quali and Race – each altering the way in which the powertrain harvests and discharges power.

INFINITI’s Mike Colleran added: “There is still work to be done. Now we have two completed prototypes we will fully evaluate the production potential of Project Black S. It is still too early to predict the outcome as we need a solid business case, but the latest rounds of testing have proved its unique performance and underlines our pursuit of electrified performance. This is an exciting phase of the process. We will consider every element of the development prototypes to establish the feasibility of volume or limited production in future.”

A Few Snags With Voice Control Systems

Michael, I don’t think these modern cars are quite up to my standard yet.

Ever since at least the 1960s or possibly earlier, technologically minded geeky sorts have dreamed of having machines that will hear your voice and carry out your commands and popped this sort of tech into sci-fi stories. Kind of like having a very obedient slave who will do whatever is asked but without any of the nasty ethical implications.  Possibly the dream of voice-activated machines is even older – if you look hard enough in old books, robot-type things have been turning up since the 1600s.  Certainly, in the 1970s and early 80s when the way you got a computer to do something was by feeding in a punch card, the idea of just being able to tell it what to do would have seemed like the ultimate.  The people with these fantasies were probably the ones who dreamed up Knight Rider and the intelligent car named KITT… and the ones who are designing cars and in-car tech grew up watching this show.

Fast forward to today and we’ve got quite a few computerized systems inside our vehicles, It’s likely that if you pick up, say, a brand new Mercedes-Benz, it will have far more electronics and computer bits and pieces than the Apollo that reached the moon.  Even better: a lot of bits and pieces inside a new car are voice activated. We’ve got to the point that if you watch a rerun of Knight Rider with a teenager, their response to KITT’s cool functions is likely to be “So what?”

These bits and pieces tend to be related to things like navigation, music and the phone; in other words, the sorts of things that you do on your phone anyway.  The idea behind it is a compromise between safety and connectedness. Instead of having to take your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel to poke around with your playlists or to call the boss and say you’ll be late because you’re stuck in traffic when you actually are stuck in traffic, you can do this just with your voice.  Both Apple and Android allow you to do this, and a few marques have their own systems – Ford, BMW and Fiat, to name a few.  In some vehicles, you can also control the temperature settings via voice control, though those who have used them report that you have to be specific and keep it simple. I guess the people developing the tech didn’t really want the climate control system to suddenly add a bit of chill when the sound system is playing “Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot”.

There are more ideas in the pipeline and have just been introduced.  If you’ve got the right apps and the right devices (hello, Alexa!), you can check if the boot and the sunroof are closed properly and what the battery status in an EV is (BMW); lock and unlock the doors remotely (Ford Chrysler) and more.  There’s talk that BMW is thinking of introducing a feature that will allow you to dictate and send an email entirely by voice.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that? I keep getting mental pictures of someone trying to write something really important having a near miss on the road (caused by somebody or something else) so that in the middle of the formal apology or job application, the reader encounters the words “Stupid mutt – get out of the way!” (That’s the polite version – insert unprintable adjectives if desired.)

Which leads me nicely to the couple of existing snags with voice recognition software in vehicles – and outside of the vehicle that a number of people have picked up on.

The first relates to getting the voice recognition system to actually pick up on what you’re saying. The interior of your vehicle tends to be noisier than, say, your living room.  Even if you’re in a nice quiet EV or hybrid running on the electric motor, there is noise from the ambient traffic around you, bumps in the road and fans.  The noise increases if you’re in an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle or if your hybrid is running on the non-electric motor. This makes it hard for those voice recognition systems to make out what you’re saying. Heck, it can sometimes be hard for another human to make out what you’re saying in these conditions, as quite a few married couples probably already know.

The system also has trouble distinguishing the voice of the driver from the voices of the passengers, so if there are kids in the back trying to chatter away while you try to tell the navigation system to find you the nearest petrol station (or EV charging station) or call your mother, it won’t understand you.

Then there’s the problem with different voices.  I remember the first time I came across some voice recognition telephone system and trying a number of times to get the stupid machine to recognize me, only succeeding when I faked a really, really cheesy American accent.  Voice recognition systems are a whole lot better than they used to be but they still have problems.  They like what they consider to be a “normal” voice.  The trouble is that what a lot of these systems consider to be a “normal” voice is one with a standard accent.  Introduce a very broad regional accent (Scottish and Irish drivers, for example, have real problems) or a non-native speaker accent and voice recognition systems throw a wobbly.  A few researchers have also discovered that in-car voice recognitions systems have more problems with female voices than male voices.  Which explains why my Brazilian sister-in-law doesn’t use these features.

Navigation systems are the main place that people notice these glitches.  If you’ve programmed your system to go somewhere and it’s reading the directions out to you, it has to “guess” how to read the street names out, sometimes with hilarious results.  Or you try saying the name of some restaurant you want to find the way to but it fails to pick it up; these systems are fine with mainstream outlets like Starbucks but they go to pieces on niche and boutique places – think English pub names like The Goat and Compasses or French restaurants like Mon Petit Escargot (I made that one up).

These problems often mean that the users get frustrated and end up picking up the phone to do the dialling or the searching manually, which defeats the purpose of having the hands-free voice activated in-car tech in the first place.  Add in the fact that the users are probably getting frustrated by this stage and you’ll probably find that they’re driving less safely than they would if they just pressed a touchscreen in the first place.

However, the problems with voice recognition systems, in cars and out of them, have their funny side, so on that note I’ll leave you with this little clip…

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Kia Picanto GT

This Car Review Is About: The 2019 Kia Picanto GT. It’s the pert and perky little five door hatch, with minor and tastefully styled body add-ons, an energetic powerplant, and a fun factor that’s off the scale. It’s a screaming bargain at just $17,990 driveaway.Under The Bonnet Is: A zippy and free spinning three cylinder petrol engine with a real warble when it’s spinning up. There are 74kW available at 4,500rpm, and a very useful 172Nm from 1,500rpm to 4,000rpm. Power heads to the front wheels via a five speed manual. Boost and bang for the milk-bottle sized engine comes from a turbocharger that adds plenty of sizzle. The dry weight of the Picanto GT is just 1,007kg, which means that the power and torque, plus the five speed, don’t need to work hard to provide the spark.

Tank size is just 35L for the standard unleaded fuel. Economy, says Kia, is 4.8L per 100km for the combined. In the urban cycle, its far more likely home, it’s 6.2L/100km. Get it onto the freeways and that drops to 4.0L/100km. We finished on 6.4L/100km on our mainly urban test cycle.On The Outside It’s: The same little block of Picanto that’s been available for a few years but now with extra grin. There are colour highlights from inserts outside and in, new wheels, front bar additions with driving lights and extra air intakes, whilst the rear gets the cool “neon” light look at night plus a twin exhaust and a diffuser style add-on. Nexen supplies the 195/45 N Blue Plus rubber to wrap the 16 inch eight spoke alloys. The review car came clad in Aurora Black, with the GT also having Clear White, Signal Red, and Titanium Silver.

On The Inside It’s: Comfortable and familiar, yet carries a bit more cachet. There are red leather highlights on the front seats, alloy pedals with rubber strips for extra foot grip, and red backlighting for the switchgear. There’s some brightwork on the tiller and piano black for the console stack. Seats are manually adjusted but with the not-quite-as user friendly levers rather than the dials which are MUCH more user friendly. Luggage space is 255L with the rear seats up, 1,055L with seats down. It’s JUST enough, if packed correctly, to carry a decent weekly family shop but if it’s a really decent shop, then the space behind the front seats will need to be used.Space itself is more than adequate for a couple, but go more than three then the Picanto’s 3,595mm length and 2,400mm wheelbase come into play. Thankfully the front seat room is enough for all but basketball players so pulled forward the rear leg room becomes tenable. Shoulder room is a bit cosy thanks to the 1,595mm and headroom is fine even with a 1,485mm height.Storage comes in the form of two cup holders in the centre console, bottle holders for the front doors, a coat hook and net hooks in the cargo area. Sounds are from a non-DAB equipped audio system but Bluetooth streaming is standard. Sound quality isn’t as good as it could be either, with depth and punch not on the same level as other systems found in Kias. Apple and Android apps are standard as well. That’s a good thing for those that use them as satnav is not standard.What About Safety?: Covered. Sort of…AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) with FCWS (Forward Collision Warning System) leads the party, backed up by a reverse camera and rear parking sensors. LED driving lights up front add visual safety and add to the visual presence and the headlights are Auto on. BUT, and it’s a big but, no Rear Cross Traffic Alert, no Blind Spot Alert, no Lane Keep Assist, no front sensors, hold back the Picanto GT in crucial areas.

On The Road It’s: An absolute bundle of fun. The engine is a cracker and the gearbox is well specced for cogs. The clutch is light and really could do with more feedback as to where the pedal is in travel and where the plates are in gripping. Once the driver has worked that out though, practice gets the pickup point and shifts to launch just right. However the spring loading for the gear selector is also light and a touch vague in where the lever goes. The gate is close so a slide from second to third feels like it’s in the same line, and there isn’t enough definition in the shifter’s movement to properly advise where the lever’s going.

ONCE everything is worked out, the little engine that could, does. It’s got a real warmth to the sound, yes, but the appeal is in how it pulls the Picanto GT , in how it allows tractability in gentle around town driving or getting serious on the freeway. It’s geared for easy going driving, but also some get up and go squirt as required. The turbo kicks in at just under 2,000 and on the freeway that gearing allows a push of the pedal to see the Picanto GT rocket forward. It’s accompanied by a thrum, a not unpleasant rumble from the three cylinder donk, which is muted when not being pressed.Off the line it’s easy to feel pressed back into the seat easily when driving in anger. There is some real urge in this tiny engine and it’s something a driver can exploit and enjoy. Bang the gear selector from first to second to third and the GT simply rolls on inexorably, seamless in its acceleration. Throw out the picks and the lightweight car slows quickly and confidently.And thanks to the slightly bigger footprint, and the grippier tyres, hard-arsed cornering can be exploited and enjoyed too. Under power the Picanto GT can be punted into turns that would see the speedo read 20, 30 km/h slower (depending on the corner’s radius and driving conditions) whilst taking advantage of the engine on boost.

Ride quality is good but not great. The rear end is prone to a little skipping around on the roads that have the expansion joints and the whole car will crash bang on missing road sections. It’s a suspension that is flat and taut but not supple enough to dial these out.

What About Warranty?:
There is Kia’s 7 years warranty as standard. That’s with unlimited kilometres. Roadside assist is for 12 months initially however if the Picanto GT is brought to Kia for servicing then that extends to 7 years coverage also. Servicing is capped price and for every 15,000 kilometres or annually, whichever occurs first.At The End Of The Drive. The Kia Picanto GT is an embodiment of the words “pocket rocket”. That 172Nm of torque is so useable in a small car, and somehow manages to stay engaging even when loaded with two adults, a ten year old, and shopping. It’s the gear selector and clutch that blunts the engine’s sharpness as these really could do with tightening up. Ride quality is also not quite en’ pointe as there’s a lack of the absorption needed in the upper end of the travel.

The lack of DAB isn’t crucial but FM sounded dull. If a GT designation is to indicate a top of the tree model, then add a top of the tree audio setup. Make up your own mind by going here.

 

Monterey Car Week: Pebble Beach Concours de Elegance.

In a field of diamonds there will be one that will shine, that will sparkle, just that brighter than the glittering surroundings. In the week of events celebrating automobiles, motorsport, fine foods and drinks, and superbly handcrafted timepieces, a stunning beachside locale named Pebble Beach becomes host once a year to a select number of the world’s best classic automobiles.

The area is steeped in history. Motorsport plays a large part in the origin of what is now the world’s premier concours event, with returning soldiers needing a place to vent post-WW2 frustrations. Road race events sprang up around the country, and Pebble Beach, with its natural oceanside setting and intoxicating mix of varying roads, quickly became a favorite. 1950 was the year the first concours was held and in the style of what had been seen in Europe. It was 1952 that saw the 18th green of the Pebble Beach Gold Club become the home of the concours and where it remains as the host for this year and beyond.

Classic cars are the heartbeat of the Pebble Beach Concours. For 2019 Bentley and Zagato will celebrate their centennials here, Bugatti will showcase historic Grand Prix and Touring cars, and Hot Rods that have featured on magazine covers will be celebrated. the 2019 Class list reads like an automotive “who’s who” with Bentley, Duesenberg, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, and Packard to name but a few that will be showcasing their metal monuments to automotive beauty.

Bentley Motors At Pebble Beach

It’s been said that to be accepted into the strictly limited numbers of entrants is honor enough. To keep the gloss and lustre that goes with that acceptance fresh, the class list is varied each year. Entries are accepted until a predetermined date in January with the lucky few notified by April for the August meeting. In order to ensure that only the very best of the very best are selected, potential entrants must only show at Pebble Beach. Nor can an entrant re-enter the car for another ten years, unless the car is sold and undergoes a substantive restoration.

It’s these kinds of stringent guidelines that allow attendees to see different cars each year. Each year brings fresh light to the field and returning guests are sure to see outstanding examples of cars built up to but not past 1972. Whilst the cars are hand-cared for, with super fine cloths and love working together to ensure the best possible shine, guests can wander through the gardens and partake of gourmet foods, exquisitely fine champagne and wines, and order picnic baskets with up to 800 wines to complement the specially prepared fare.

There are more than metal, leather, and rubber to appeal. Pebble Beach also host charity fundraising and in 2018 raised over $2.1 million. Over 80 charities in the local area benefit from the hard work and sponsorships, with some directly aimed at encouraging a new generation of automotive enthusiasts. What these new members of one of the world’s most famous concours can see is how the automobiles are judged for authenticity, for history, function, and style. They’ll learn how the class structure works in respect to the marques, the rarities that are barn finds are rebuilt to better than brand new, and what makes a winner at Pebble Beach so utterly special.

2018 Best of Show 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta

Class judges are in a team that work with a Chief Judge. Automobiles that win their class to be named First in Class are the ones that become eligible for a tilt at the highly prized crown: Best of Show. Judging involves the Best of Show ballots which are provided to the Chairman, the Chief Judge, the Chief Honorary Judge, each Chief Class Judge, each Honorary Judge team leader, and select Class Judges. Judging is independent and free. Once the ballots are counted after judging, the most votes become part of Pebble Beach history, with the winner named Best of Show and becoming part of a very, very, select family.

The 2019 Pebble Beach Concours de Elegance will be on Sunday, August 19. For those looking to enter or attend for 2020 and August 16, www.pebblebeach.net is the site to go to.

Monterey Car Week: The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering.

The Quail. An unusual name, one big event. It’s part of the week that celebrates new and classic autos, new and classic aircraft, high end personal items and cordon bleu’ food in the coastal town of Monterey, California, every August. The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering itself is held in the beautifully manicured grounds of the Quail Lodge Resort and Gold Club in Carmel, just a few miles south of Monterey and a couple of miles east of Pebble Beach.

It’s perhaps the youngest of the numerous automotive themed events and shows that are held in the area, with this being more focused on motorsport. There are plenty of historic style vehicles that attend, but such is its stature, major brands such as Lamborghini and Bugatti, choose The Quail last year as the launch event for a new vehicle. Bugatti, for example, took the covers off of the Divo, powered by an 8.0L W16 engine. It’s a short-run car priced at “just” six million dollars…

This year’s event is to be held on August 16 and each year the organizers go for a theme or two. For this year, Bentley will celebrate and commemorate 100 years of motoring excellence, whilst McLaren will showcase a quarter century of its ground breaking F1. Modern times are given a nod with A Tribute To the Electric Car Movement also being part of the day.

Mclaren Senna (Photo Credit McLaren

It’s the sniff of petrol, the scent of grease, the raw appeal of well worn leather in the motorsports part of the event that draws the crowds. Traditional Classes such as Post-War Sports and Post-War Racing feature heavily, as do Custom Coachwork builds alongside Sports and Racing Motorcycles. There have been racing team displays such as Martini, who have brought along a selection of their legendary Lancias. Pagani have been here, Ferraris old and new gleam in the westering sun, performance companies such as Hennesy have highlighted their Venom F5, and Datsun/Nissan have provided rolling history lessons with classic rally cars.

Rimac’s California Edition C Two Hypercar (Credit: Somer Hooker/New Atlas)

Crowd management is simple. Tickets to enter are limited and this is done to maximise the usage of the location. It enables the cars to be properly viewed and enjoyed without fighting through crowds. It allows the useable space to showcase the event’s reason for existence: the cars. And it adds exclusivity which means the sponsors and haute couture suppliers aren’t pushed to the limit with supplies. Each ticket is fully inclusive too, so the once off cost covers an attendee for everything inside the grounds. However, there are tickets for the philanthropic which donates a portion of the ticket cost to charity, with a premium ticket granting access to helicopter transport to the Laguna Seca Raceway for associated events.

Genesis Essentia Concept: super smooth(Credit: Somer Hooker/New Atlas)

But it’s the judging, the concours, that brings the masses, and it’s done differently here at The Quail. Cars are put into classes and each car is judged by the owners of the other cars in the same class. The winner receives the “Best In Class” award and each of the winners then competes in a “Best Of Show” contest in the Rolex Circle of Champions, and again the winner is the one adjudged by the owners of the cars in competition. Last year’s winner was a truly beautiful example of the best from Italy.

Curtiss Zeus

A Pininfarina concept, a one off, and built upon the chassis of the Lancia Aurelia B52, the 1953 Lancia Aurelia PF200C owned by Anne Brockinton Lee stamped itself as being worthy of the accolade awarded from 235 competitors. A ten year restoration process ensured no part was left untouched in its meticulous rebuild. It’s this that makes The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering virtually unique in automotive week on the Monterey Peninsula.

Montery’s Auto Week: McCall’s Motorworks Revival.

Monterey, California. It’s located slap bang in the middle of the state’s coastline and once a year plays host to a number of car shows. Those two words, however, do not do justice to what is made available as there are events such as the fabled Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to attend in a must-see automotive week.

The McCall’s Motorworks Revival on August 14 is the ignition point for the week and for 2019 will be held once again at the Monterey Jet Center. It’s an ideal location as it allows the organisers the opportunity to take advantage of the open spaces, combine aircraft, luxury and sports cars, high end personal luxury items, and more.
Of note for the 2019 event will be the attendance of world renowned performance car company, Roush. They’ll be showcasing their one-of-a-kind Stage 3 Mustang and a powerplant producing 710 horsepower. It’ll sit by the side of their new F-150 SC pickup. Power here is from a supercharged 650 horsepower 5.0L V8.

High end watch maker, Chronoswiss, will be there and they’ll be unveiling their startling Flying Grand Open Gear ReSec. Limited to just 50 pieces this beautiful and stylish timepiece embodies true Swiss watchmaking.

Along with the airport’s modern and historic aircraft displays, historic motorsport cars will appeal to those with more than a hint of gasoline in the blood. This year will see the BMW 320 Turbo race car, as campaigned by Jim Busby in the International Motor Sports Association competition. This car is just one of only two of its type built in 1978. It’s been raced at Silverstone, the Nurburgring, and competed with Jim behind the wheel in the 1979 IMSA GTX series. There will also be a LeMans winning Porsche at this year’s event in the shape of a GT3 RSR. Porsche have a long history with that famous race and this car is sure to have plenty of eyes on her.

Cessna is a name familiar around the world to anyone with even a passing interest in aviation. McCall Events are delighted to have this year’s Motorworks Revival Cessna’s new Citation Longitude. This sleek business jet is powered by a pair of Honeywell HTF7000 turbofan engines, has the quietest interior in its class, and can be configured to seat up to 12 passengers.

Attendees can taste high end fare, such as the gourmet caviar options from the California Caviar Company, or down a finger of tequila from El Jefe Tequila., whilst admiring Lamborghinis, McLarens new and historic, Gulfstreams, Pilatus aircraft, and perhaps even a James Bond Aston Martin DB5 or the original, prototype, Ford Mustang.

This year marks the 28th McCall’s Motorworks Revival. At its core is Gordon McCall, a man with plenty of events and concours experience. Gordon has over a quarter century of judging experience at Pebble Beach, and is the co-founder & motorsports director for “The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering”.
Tickets for the event go on sale the year before, shortly after the previous event, and are highly prized amongst regular attendees.

It’s A Man’s World In The Crash Test Facility

Notice the design of the chest, biceps, neck and jaw…

Take a look at your typical crash dummy – the sort they use in the ANCAP and similar tests (see the photo, sourced from ANCAP).  Notice anything about them and what they’ve got in common?  Ten points (or should that be five stars?) for you if you noticed that a crash test dummy tends to look like a guy.  I don’t know if you can really refer to a crash test dummy as a male but it (he?) is definitely masculine.

Yes, indeed.  Skipping the whole thing about gender identity and all that, there are only two basic human skeleton and tissue types: the male sort and the female sort.  And, in case you haven’t been paying attention, they aren’t the same. Women (in general) have wider pelvises, narrower chins, a higher proportion of body fat, smaller hands and feet and thinner necks than men.  They’ve also got their centre of gravity in a different place.  When guys get a bit chubbier, they put it on their tummies; when women do the same, it goes on the butt and thighs.  Men have flat chests and even my A-cup sisters have boobs.  Women are, on average, shorter (yes, we’re talking typical and average here and I know perfectly well that there are tall women and short men).  Male bones are denser and have a higher proportion of muscle mass.  Women have a larger lumbar lordosis (the curve in the lower spine that lumbar support in the driver’s seat is supposed to fit snugly into), which means that their pelvis tilts at a slightly different angle, which affects the walk. In fact, high heels are designed to increase that lumbar lordosis, the tilt and the swaying walk. And the list goes on.

Unfortunately, in spite of the key role of my heroine Bertha Benz in getting the whole horseless carriage thing started, car designers have used “standard” or “typical” human figures when designing cars.  Unfortunately, as most car designers up until now have been guys, guess what they see as being “standard” or “typical”: the others sitting with them around the drawing board, who are all guys.

Surely, I’m not the only woman driver who has sat there fiddling with the lumbar support control and wondered why the heck it doesn’t come out any further because it’s not quite getting into the right place, and why the seat angle is never exactly right.  We tend to start playing around with cushions at this point.  As for the problems that crop up when you’re a female driver in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, trying to negotiate a seat belt around the baby bump and the set of Pamela Andersons you’ve picked up… don’t even get me started!  Apparently, women sit in the “wrong” driving position when they’re behind the wheel.

However, the safety systems that have been put in place by car designers have been developed and tested with the standard crash test dummy. Which is based on the average male.  The smaller size, the different shape, the different centre of gravity, the different tissue density and all the rest of it means that a female body does not behave like a male body during a collision.  OK, they did try during the 1980s to introduce a feminine crash test dummy, but this (1) had the same proportions as the male ones but just scaled down rather than having curves and (2) is usually put in the passenger seat during crash tests.

Can we just pause and think about that for a second? When they do crash tests, they mostly put the female dummy in the passenger seat.  This was pointed out just last year by a pair of (female) Swedish road safety researchers*.  Crash tests, in general, assume that women don’t drive.  These tests weren’t being carried out in Saudi Arabia, for goodness sake!  What were they thinking?

A truth that’s even more inconvenient than Al Gore’s is that women have a much higher rate of being injured in a car crash than men.  Given the same speed and impact type, women get hurt worse.  The simple reason for this is because the cars’ safety features have been engineered and tested with the average male body in mind.

To take just one example, think of whiplash.  A lot of new cars have active head restraints that are designed to cradle the head and neck to prevent whiplash.  However, you can guess what these have been tested on most of the time.  In fact, when the NHTSA started using “female” crash dummies (which they started doing in 2003), they used them for the side impact tests… which aren’t quite such a problem for whiplash, given the vectors of the forces involved.  Now, no woman is Barbie but we do have thinner necks than guys.  In fact, if you’re an artist or cartoonist, one of the quickest ways to make a head and shoulders to look masculine or feminine is to adjust the proportions of the neck.

Women’s necks don’t have the muscle and sinew there that guys do, so our heads and necks don’t behave the same way during the sort of crash that is most likely to lead to whiplash.  Add in the fact that women aren’t “sitting right” in the driver’s seat because we’ve got different pelvises, plus the fact that seatbelts are hard to get right if you’ve got anything on your chest bigger than a B cup, which is the case for most women.  Heck, we all know that fitted T-shirts and jeans for men and women are cut differently, for goodness sake!  Given all these differences, and it’s no wonder that women’s rate of getting whiplash is much, much higher than that of guys.

I’m going to be charitable here and put forward the notion that the guys designing cars and doing the crash tests are nice guys at heart rather than a bunch of sexist pigs.  Perhaps the idea of using a crash test dummy that looks more like a real woman jars with their inner knights in shining armour and a plan to put even a replica of a damsel fitted with lots of sensors so you can see just how much distress she gets into is upsetting.  If this is the case, well, that’s sweet of you guys, but you’re actually not doing us any favours.

However, change is afoot and more and more women are getting into car design and the safety side of things, although anything like a 50–50 proportion in the workplace is a long way off.   Yet another (female) vehicle safety researcher from Sweden has looked at the stats and is developing a proper female crash test dummy with female proportions.  Known as EvaRID, this dummy is designed with the whiplash issue in mind.  You can hear Dr. Astrid Linder introduce this dummy in her TEDx talk (in English, don’t panic!):

As you can expect with those safety-minded Swedes, Volvo is getting on board with the E.V.A. initiative (which stands for Equal Vehicles for All as well as cleverly echoing the name of the dummy, which is the Swedish for Eve, the first woman).  The senior technical specialist at Volvo Cars Safety Centre, Dr. Lotta Jakobsson (yes, another Swedish woman), is doing her bit by collecting real world crash data and heading a design team to make cars just as safe for women as they are for men. In fact, Volvo’s existing WHIPS design was tested on the EvaRID dummy as well as on the male one (the name of the most recent one is Thor, continuing the Nordic theme), and Volvo’s getting right behind the initiative.  This makes me want to run out an buy a new Volvo right away.  However, as we saw many years ago with the invention of seatbelts, where Volvo goes, others are soon to follow.

The fact that the designers, modellers, engineers, researchers and analysts focusing on the gender differences happen to be mostly women is also noticeable, which is also an argument for encouraging just as many girls as guys to get into the field of engineering.  We don’t need to go to the extremes of having a vehicle that is designed solely to fit a woman’s body – although it sure would be a best-seller – but making sure that we don’t forget 50% of the population (and let’s not even get started on ethnic differences in body size and type) by ensuring that some of said 50% knows their stuff with engineering will make better cars for all humans.

And, gals, you’ve still got no excuse for not wearing a seatbelt even if sits badly on your chest, so buckle up!

* Linder, A., & Svedberg, W. (2018). Occupant safety assessment in European regulatory tests : review of occupant models, gaps and suggestion for bridging any gaps. Presented at the 18th International Conference Road Safety on Five Continents (RS5C 2018), Jeju Island, South Korea, May 16-18, 2018, Linköping. Retrieved from http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:vti:diva-12886