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Driving in Australia

Mahindra Pik-Up Gets Update for 2018.

Some brands in Australia’s car industry seem to sail under the radar. Sometimes that’s a good thing as it gives the canny and investigative buyer a chance to stand out from the crowd. There’s also a sense of brand loyalty amongst those that do buy, and so it is with Mahindra. The Indian based conglomerate has released an update to the sturdy Pik-Up two and four door ute, covering the drivetrain, exterior and interior, and safety. The trim levels are named S6 and S10.
Drivetrain.
It’s a two body range, the dual cab and single cab (and S6 and S10 for both), with two and four wheel drive available for both. That’s available via a six speed manual attached to a small but grunty Euro V compliant diesel. The capacity is 2.2 litres, and peak power is 103 kilowatts. The important name and number is torque and there’s 330 of them, between 1600 to 2800. That’s smart engineering as it means driveability is enhanced in a real world situation.

In the 4WD versions, it’s a Borg-Warner transfer case putting that torque to the dirt through all four paws plus there’s an Eaton system that will lock the rear diff if slippage is detected.. Tank size is a massive 80 litres, not far off the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s 93L. Economy for the four door is quoted as 8.8L/100 km. There is a single cab due in 2018, with economy slated to be 0.2L/100km better. Towing is rated as 2500 kilograms, braked.Interior.
There’s the visible and invisible. Mahindra have upped the safety stakes, with ABS, collapsible steering column, Electronic Brake Distribution, front airbags as standard. For the family, there’s ISOFIX seat anchor points also as standard. Visibly there’s a six-inch touchscreen in the S10 (CD/MP3 campatoble head unit for the S6)which displays the reverse camera, along with cruise control and satnav, climate control, auto headlights and wipers. The driver’s dash display receives a 3D effect on the analogue dials for better visualisation. There’s an upright design to the dash itself, ensuring plenty of leg room for the driver and passenger, as do the rear sear passengers thanks to some well thought out packaging.Exterior.
The Pik-Up has always had a solid, bluff, look, and this stays. However, the S10 gets a classy mix of black chrome grille with subtle chrome highlights, a reshaped lower air intake for better engine breathing and aerodynamics, with both grille and intake receiving a visual update thanks to black mesh, and a subtle increase to the Mahindra badge.
There’s LED driving lights for the completely restyled headlights in the S10 and restyled foglights as well. Tyres will be P245/75 R16.Release Information and Pricing.
As of December 2017, there will be the 4×4 S6 single cab chassis at $26,990 driveaway. A 4×2 version will be available in early 2018 at $21,990. The 4×4 S6 dual cab will come with either a cab chassis or factory fitted “well side tub” at $26,490 and $29,990 respectively. The S10 trim level and tub takes it to $31,990. There’s a huge range of options available such as snorkel, tow ball set-up, and winch compatible steel bill bars, with more to come in 2018.

Colours are limited to a four choice palette: Napoli Black, Arctic White, Red Rage and De-sat Silver. Warranty is five years or 100,000 kilometres and also includes five years roadside assistance.
For more information on the 2018 Mahindra Pik-Up range, head here: Mahindra Australia

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander LS AWD Diesel With Safety Pack

Revelations 2.2, Reading from the Book Of Diesel, Chapter: Mitsubishi Outlander LS AWDI had an epiphany whilst piloting Mitsubishi’s Outlander LS diesel seven seater (with safety pack) early on a Sunday morning to Kurrajong, a pretty area of the lower Blue Mountains and home to the start of the famous Bell’s Line of Road, the northern western bound access to Lithgow. The epiphany courtesy of the fact the reason we were on the way there was for day two of the little athletics carnival that our two kids were participating in.The epiphany itself? That little athletics can be a metaphor for a car and this car in particular. Truly. The Outlander diesel has a 2.2L capacity, offering a maximum power of 110 kilowatts and a very handy 360 torques. They’re available between 1500 to 2750 and ideal for the easy run from home to Kurrajong, via the sometimes curvy, sometimes twisty, but mostly straightish Hawkesbury Road into the southern reaches of Richmond, a few kilometres from the RAAF base, before the westbound journey into the lower reaches of the Blue Mountains.This means that it’s like a long distance runner, cruising along in a ten thousand metre race. There’s the get off the line grunt before settling into economy mode, barely breaking a mechanical sweat as you ease towards the finish line. Economy figures back that up with just 7.8 litres of dino juice imbibed after a predominantly urban 440 kilometres.Whilst you’re inside the seven seater, there’s plenty of room to enjoy, both for legs and heads. That means that you’re leading the race and by a good margin. There’s even space to stretch the legs up front, the same as being in that final twenty metres of a sprint and needing that extra pace. Those seven seats could be likened to an athlete that excels is more than just one discipline, with flexibility the key.One thing that stands out about the LS is just how comfortable it is. There’s cloth, not leather covered, seats, making getting back into the curvaceously bodied machine a lot easier to deal with on a hot day with hot and sweaty children. The rear row of seats fold up and down at the simple pull of a strap, with 128 litres of cargo (plus a 12V socket) with the rear seats up, enough for some esky bags and camp chairs, and when flat along with the middle row, allow 1608 litres of room.The steering is well weighted, and quite precise, just like a well practiced discus thrower. Think of the spin and throw and landing the disc in the same spot every time, precisely. Or a javelin, as you pick up the spear, judge its heft, the same as you would the steering into the tight turns of the Hawkesbury Road, and hurl it ensuring it buries itself nose first, just as you’d have the steering tell the nose of the Outlander exactly where to go. And it does.Then there’s that engine. It’ll purr along like a long distance runner, as mentioned, but it also has the sheer outright oomph that a hammer thrower, or shot putter, needs to launch the weight of the thing far and away. Wind it up into the torque zone, select 4WD lock from the three mode 4WD system, and it’ll happily pull itself up hill, over rocks, through puddles up to around 20 cm in depth nicely on the 18 inch diameter 225/55 tyres.This particular Mitsubishi Outlander LS AWD is fitted with Mitsubishi’s “Safety Pack”. Parking sensors front and rear complement the reverse park camera and airbags, then there’s the Lane Departure Warning system, Forward Collision Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control, which measures the distance ahead of the car whilst in cruise control and adapts speed to suit. Think of doing a long jump and adjusting your run up to the jump knowing you have centimetres more to achieve. Lob in Autonomous Emergency Braking, or pulling up if your run up is misjudged and before you cross the jump line, and it’s a well featured package. For extra additional enjoyment there’s the seven inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and DAB radio, just like a pair of lightweight running shoes that aid performance without being intrusive.As an everyday transport, the Mitsubishi Outlander LS (priced at the time of writing at $41990 driveaway without safety pack), with seven seats, diesel with oomph, the safety extras, and comfortable ride, is a revelation and as adaptable as a good athlete. With a five year warranty, 12 months roadside assistance, and three years capped priced servicing, it’s as good value as seeing your kids make their way through to the next level of little athletics.

A Wee Rant About Road Works

I’ll slow down… if there really are road works ahead.

Yes, yes, I know that roads need to be repaired regularly so they stay safe to drive on.  I also know that we need to keep the guys and girls working on the roads safe and that we shouldn’t just roar through road works at our usual speed.  However, there are times when seeing those “road works ahead” signs up ahead really makes me see red.

I particularly see red when I’m on my pushbike and the road works people have decided the bike lane is the best place to put out their warning signs, forcing me to either nip into the main stream of the traffic or onto the footpath.  However, there are times that even when I’m behind the wheel of a car that those road works signs arouse my ire.

Not that I’m complaining about the road works themselves.  I don’t mind slowing down when something’s actually going on or there really is something I need to take care with – lots of busy people, a single lane or stacks of loose gravel.  If there’s one of those traffic controllers with a stop/go sign on a pole, I’ll give them a friendly smile and wave, or even say hello if I’m close enough – after all, traffic controlling work is one of the most mind-bogglingly boring jobs out there, although it’s probably better than it was 25 years ago, seeing as one could now probably listen to a podcast or audiobook on the smartphone through one ear.  And I’d much rather see a real human employed for traffic control duty than one of those temporary traffic lights that keeps going at night and will hold up a huge line of cars for no reason whatsoever thanks to its internal programming.

The problem happens when the road works warning signs are the only type of road works out there.

You know how this scenario goes.  You’re travelling along and you see one of those temporary warning signs on the road up ahead of you, so you slow down. However, as you get closer to where the signs are, what do you see?  Do you see bulldozers and bitumen mixers?  Do you see sweaty guys in high-viz with power tools jackhammering the road surface open?  Is there a massive hole in the road or similar amusements?

Nope.  The only thing that you can see is maybe a single road cone marking where the road works have been… and beside that sits a tiny little patch of loose gravel over where they’ve repaired a pothole. Alternatively, all you can see is a few spraypainted marks where they’re going to repair something.  Or possibly, there’s a half-done kerb on the side of the road that they’re going to finish off when it’s stopped raining or when the weekend is over.  Or the road works are taking place on a side road that intersects with the road you’re driving on (but don’t affect the road you’re driving on, except indirectly).

You have to ask yourself sometimes: are the warning signs the first things that they put up before beginning a job and the last things they take away?  Honestly, I’m convinced that the road signs go up as soon as they’ve decided to fix something on the road and stay there until they’ve finished the paperwork to sign the job off after it’s done.

And then they wonder why people don’t like to slow down when they see those signs.  Haven’t they all heard the fable of the boy who cried wolf?  You’d think that they’re trying to condition us to ignore the road signs. I know for one that my reaction upon seeing those road signs is “What road works where?” I’m probably not the only one who gets into the very bad habit of not quite slowing down to the temporary speed limit when seeing these signs.

Dear road workers, us drivers appreciate all your hard work, we really do, and we don’t want to put you in danger.  However, you guys need to do your bit.  Let’s do a deal: you put the warning signs up when you’re actually working on the road, not three weeks beforehand, take them down when you’re finished and maybe even lay them facedown during the weekend if the road isn’t actually hazardous.  It can’t take you that long to put them up and take them down. In return, we’ll pay much more attention to the signs and really will slow down to 80, 50 or 30 as the case may be, and we’ll probably be nicer to you when we drive past.

Particularly annoying road works signs I have seen over the years (with specific locations removed) include:

  • The ones on a large chunk of main road that could only be fixed on a sunny day… and the road signs went out in the rainy season when sunny days were few and far between. They stayed there for at least three weeks with no sign of action on the roads before the work began.  I’m not sure when they came down, because by that stage, I’d found an alternate route on a minor road.
  • The traffic control light that stopped a major highway for ten minutes (I was counting) just so they could set up a line of road cones. Honestly, after having waited that long, I was expecting to see something major going on!  Couldn’t they have maybe set them out in small batches rather than letting a long line of traffic build up?
  • Not quite so annoying this time: the sign warning that road marking was going on ahead. We’d kind of guessed, as the tank of yellow paint had sprung a leak and there was a thin trail of yellow in the middle of the lane near some very new, very white centre lines.

Right, that’s my rant over.  Now it’s your turn.  What’s your worst experience with road works and pointless signs?  Have a good old grizzle in the comments and let us sympathise with you.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV

PHEV. It’s short, sharp, sounds like an ex AFL player but with vastly more substance. It stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. In layman’s terms, it’s an electrically powered car that you can plug in to your home power system to charge a battery inside the car. What it doesn’t tell you is that the petrol engine that’s also fitted can be used as a generator and that the brakes can be used to harvest the kinetic energy generated and recharge the battery on the go. Private Fleet trundles the Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV from the lower Blue Mountains to Temora, in the central west of NSW, via Bathurst, and home via Yass and Goulburn. It’s readily identifiable as a PHEV thanks to the three subtle (ahem) badges on the rear door and front flanks.Oh, there’s a Tesla style fast charge port so you achieve approximately 80 percent full charge from empty in just half an hour, as long as you have the appropriate equipment, including the transformer the PHEV comes with for the everyday single phase household which is best left overnight to really give the “tank” a full charge. Hence the Plug-in part of the name.Mitsubishi currently only have the Outlander as a hybrid vehicle and it’s a kinda cool one with three distinct hybrid modes, EV, Series, and Parallel modes. When the EV Mode is chosen you’re driving purely on battery power alone. You can also drive with the 2.0L petrol engine as a charging unit or as a paired situation where the petrol engine kicks in as required. Transmission is a single or fixed speed transaxle unit.

There’s a big silver EV button in the centre console or two buttons either side of the jet fighter Drive selector (no gears as such) marked Save or CHRG. Save turns off the electric option and runs purely on the petrol powerplant, the other is self explanatory.When fully charged, the battery indicator shows a range of around fifty kilometres. If you accelerate ssssllllooooowwwwllllyyyyy it will stay on battery only but give it a reasonable prod and the petrol engine cuts in. On battery it’s an eerie almost silence, with a barely audible whir as the PHEV wafts away. The petrol engine is isolated, muted, and there’s hardly a vibration in the body to alert you to it being engaged. The computer programing is seamless, as is the actual switching between modes, and the whole system is intuitive.Fuel consumption is still…..well, a concern. Mitsubishi’s refinement to the overall system now rate consumption as 1.7L of 91RON per 100 kilometres. That’s certainly achievable on virtually purely electric runs that cover no more than maybe fifteen kilometres or so. A Wheel Thing finished, after a week and well over 1000 kilometres, closer to 9.5L/100 kilometres. That’s from a 45L tank. Overall power is rated at 120 kW and that’s for the two electric motors fitted, one for the rear and one for the front wheels, which out put a total of 120 kW and 332 Nm. Mitsubishi says 6.5 hours for a full charge to the battery using the charger on a standard household supply.

The petrol engine is rated for a fairly measley 87 kW, but a better torque figure is usable at 186 Nm @ 4500 rpm. It’s also worth noting that you can effectively have the PHEV as an AWD or All Wheel Drive vehicle by the simple expedient of pushing a clearly marked 4WD button in the centre console.The drive west from the lower Blue Mountains sees the westbound highway rise by some five hundred metres vertically over a horizontal distance of perhaps eighty kilometres, before dropping drastically at the western edge to the Hartley Valley from Mt Victoria via one of the most picturesque yet narrow roads around. It’s here that you can tip the drive selector into B3 or B5, two different braking modes to harvest the kinetic energy, and add extra range back into the battery system. The brake pedal itself is slightly numb also but not so enough to isolate feedback to your foot when generating energy on a downhill run where the braking modes don’t slow the car enough.

There’s a couple of steepish climbs before entering Lithgow, the home of famed Australian runner Marjorie Jackson, before a reasonably flat run to Bathurst, and from here to the WW2 prison town of Cowra, where a number of Japanese prisoners staged a breakout. The roads were flat, surprisingly smooth, allowing the PHEV to build up speed slowly in order to not punch a hole in the range availability. The PHEV was also predisposed to understeer, not uncontrollable, but easier where safe to allow the nose to run wide and follow its own path. The steering itself was numb to the point of disconnection on centre, with an artificial feel to the travel either side.

On the more rough tarmac surfaces in the central west of NSW there was noticeable road noise from the 225/55/18 Toyo A25 rubber, which also didn’t look as if they’d fit the wheel well, with plenty of room between the lining and the rubber. The suspension itself is tuned somewhere between taut and not quite so taut, with initial give before firming up rapidly. Adding to the ride query is an overly short front suspension travel, a trait found in some other cars where riding over a school lane speed hump at exactly the legal speed has a crash thump that sounds as if the struts are about to pull out from the body mounts. It’s disconcerting and at odds with the mooted soft road ability the Outlander is marketed with. On the upside directional changes are dealt with well, on smooth roads, with a centre of gravity well below the driver’s seat meaning body roll is minimal.Economy here varied between 4.0L/100 km where the Charge tab was engaged, as once underway the drain on the system isn’t aware as much (naturally) as accelerating constantly. There’s a centre of dash display, as is standard in all Outlanders, in this case showing the range from purely battery and both battery and fuel. In Temora itself, the car was charged up overnight. The purpose of visiting Temora was to watch their Remembrance Day airshow, as Temora is a former working WW2 airforce base and home to aircraft such as a Gloster Meteor, Spitfire, Hudson, and more. The show itself was a quickish 3.5 hours but wrapped with the tarmac being opened for visitors being able to meet the pilots including Red Bull Air Race and former RAAF pilot, Matt Hall.An overnight charge has the battery in the PHEV topped up and Sunday’s return trip via the township of Harden (seriously), via Yass and along the monumentally boring Hume Highway past Goulburn. The roads here were again most straight and corners rated between 75 to 95 kmh meaning that most of them were well within the abilities of the drivetrain to gently ease off and gently accelerate up.

Straight line stability in the Outlander is wonderful, lateral stability not so, with both front and rear, time and again, skipping left and right on rutted and broken surfaces. There’s an instant feeling of uncertainty before either corner cocks a leg and then there’s the sideways movement. A quick lift of the right foot, the chassis regathers its thoughts, and it’s business as usual. In the greater scheme of things it’s a minor annoyance but shows that underneath it’s not quite as settled compared to some of its rivals.Final consumption figures are a long way from the claimed 1.7L/100 km which would be spot on for short distance, flat road, driving. But along the way you can enjoy the decently velour covered comfortable seats, the DAB equipped sound system, with plenty of punch and clarity. Being a largish SUV (call it 4.8 metres in length) means plenty of head (1030 mm), leg (1039 mm for the front), shoulder (1437 mm), and cargo space, with the five seater allowing 477 litres. There’s a parcel shelf that covers the spare and has a small locker for the charge cable. However the dash and overall cabin presence is dating and needs a makeover to bring it up to the perceived level of quality as seen in the Korean and European rivals. Outside it’s no different, apart from the badging, to the currently design ethos of Mitsubishi, with the broad and chromed “Shield” nose, curvaceous body that would shame some super models, and a rounded in profile but square from the rear…rear.You’ll not want for safety in the form of airbags, hill start assist, and the basic traction control systems, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and something called an Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System….what you don’t get is satnav, as the seven inch touchscreen interface has apps for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, has GPS, but not a navigation facility.At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing Mitsubishi didn’t list a price for the PHEV on their website, stating it was “Price on application”. Given the standard Outlander range starts at $27990 and goes up to $47990 for the Exceed version (also available as a PHEV) it’d be fair to say somewhere in the mid $30K bracket for the LS. It’s different in that you get a petrol power generator and a back up driver unit at that, with the main focus being that it’s a plug in unit and less reliant on the petrol engine. The fact that it’s a SUV is also different, with very, very few other companies offering anything similar and bear in mind the Outlander isn’t aimed at the luxury car market.

Unfortunately that shows up mostly in the interior, and on road the unsettled feeling it exhibits just a little too often. Measured up, on these two standards, against the Santa Fe, Sorento, Fortuner, and the Euros such as the Tiguan, its lagging. Where it scores the brownie points is in the drive tech, so click here: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV for specific information and contact your local dealer for pricing.

 

Hyundai Conquers The COTY Small Cars.

Winning a Car of the Year award is no small thing and drive.com.au, one of the country’s respected publications, has seen fit to award their COTY for Best Small Car of 2017 to Hyundai’s rampaging i30 SR.
After a solid week of testing against its peer group, Hyundai’s best-selling car came up trumps, showing off its refined dynamics, lively engine and new technology by beating the best from Europe and Japan.

The six-strong judging panel, comprising Drive’s editorial and road test team, put more than 50 cars through their paces at Wakefield Park Raceway to determine the class winners. Judges used the raceway to compare handling, vehicle dynamics, ride quality and braking ability, before embarking on an extensive road drive program to assess each car thoroughly in urban, rural and highway driving environments“Our finalists are the best of the best in their respective classes and the small car class is very competitive,” said Drive editor Andrew Maclean. “Hyundai i30 represents great value-for-money in that class and i30 SR is a genuine pocket rocket. Its 150kW, 265Nm, turbocharged 1.6-litre engine delivers real hot hatch performance in a sub-$30,000 car. It has fantastic dynamics and the local chassis tuning stands it apart from everything else in its class.”

Hyundai Motor Company Australia Chief Executive Officer, JW Lee, said “i30 SR’s win in the Drive Car of the Year awards just six months after its launch here is a great result. Our confidence in the new, third-generation i30 range has been bolstered by this win in one of Australia’s most prestigious Car of the Year competitions.”

“The i30 offers a comprehensive suite of technology across the range and its beautiful design – coupled with outstanding chassis dynamics and real value for money – makes our affordable premium small car a winner with Aussie customers as well,” he added.

Should Motorists Complete First Aid Training?

It’s a topic that rears its head every now and then, yet continually the issue has been overlooked by authorities. We pay particular attention to the road toll, yet for some reason one of the efforts we could employ to mitigate this issue hasn’t warranted a national response. Why is first aid training not compulsory for every motorist, and should it be part of our licensing requirements?

When you put things into perspective, we spend a considerable amount of our lives driving from point A to point B. We may be lucky to escape accidents but the chances of seeing one, either take place or the result thereof, are far greater. And even though our cars have become a lot safer through technological innovation, poor driving habits and behaviours have crept into our society and created larger issues. The result has been a recent increase in the number of fatalities on our roads, although many of these fatalities have often been preventable, even after the accident.

With this concerning trend already in motion, it’s time we also start to prepare drivers by training them to engage in reactive behaviour in the form of being a first responder. As it currently stands, the overwhelming majority of drivers and bystanders are ill equipped to administer first aid at an accident scene. In fact, in what should be viewed as a major concern, many wouldn’t even know where to begin. Even I know, that despite my former first aid training, it’s a moment you can never be entirely prepared for as shock sets in and time stands still.

Now let me clarify, bystanders and other motorists shouldn’t be expected to fill the void of professional emergency services personnel. However, in the event of an accident, every second matters. Early treatment can be the difference between life and death. And in the moments where emergency services personnel need to fight traffic to make it to the scene of an accident, those seconds are potentially ticking away.

Even in the absence of specific treatment, a bystander with composure to secure the scene, or calm the anxieties of those involved in the incident is an invaluable asset. These are specific elements to first aid training, which every motorist should be taught as part of their licensing requirements. Whereas drivers cover a gamut of issues concerning driving technique and etiquette, there is no reason why we shouldn’t all be equipped to administer first aid as a first responder in the event of an accident.

The course would be easy to include as part of our license tests, and it could also be renewed on a periodic basis along with our licenses. Several countries in Europe already adopt this approach, and if we want to keep up with the rest of the world, it’s time we start paying attention to the issues on our roads that really matter.

Test, Retest…Or Not. When Should Australian Drivers Be Retested?

For most of us, the most stressful thing we would do after finishing high school, be that after year ten or twelve, is learn to drive. Life’s hard enough when you’re dealing with no longer being at school, dealing with puberty and discovering the appeal of the opposite or same sex, sneaking in a durry or a beer without “the olds” finding out, trying to find work and realising that the trains, trams, buses, don’t go anywhere near where you need them to be….so we learn to drive.

I learned to drive after I was 18 thanks to a stint in Her Majesty’s Royal Australian Army, “marching in” a week before my 18th birthday. Back in the day, before the decision in some states to allow Mum, Dad, or a legal adult, to teach driving, it was pretty much mandatory to undertake driving lessons through a recognised driving school. This is when the basics of driving were taught: get in, get a proper and comfortable driving position, check the seatbelt was plugged in, the mirrors were in the right position, and there was go-go juice in the tank. This was before airbags, anti-lock braking systems (ABS), electronic driver aids and, frankly, before automatic transmissions took over from manuals as the cogger of choice.The instructor would emphasise, for manual transmissions, that you had a foot on the clutch, the handbrake was on (a lever style, not today’s electronic type), then you’d turn the key, maybe even need to adjust the choke, before feeding in a fine balance of accelerator and clutch as you’d pull away either smoothly or bunny hopping…You’d find out that speed and lack of experience made for trouser puckering moments, that instructors were human judging by the strangled gasps, that brakes work wonderfully well when the pedal is mashed hard and that ABS was a long way off…

Indicators were mandatory, not optional extras like they seem to be now, with climate control air-conditioning controlled by how far you wound the window up or down and that the radio was AM, FM, maybe a cassette, and that USB and 3.5 mm auxiliary ports were something from Star Trek. Handling skills improved, judging distances for trailing the car/truck/bus in front were more related to speed than attitude, and the mirrors were scanned every so often to double check for following traffic rather than squeezing pimples or checking your hair.

After a few, let’s say ten lessons, the instructor would say words along the lines of “Think ya ready?” and you’d book a test, a test to get your driver’s licence. On the day, you’d either be in a cold sweat as you struggled to remember everything, or you’d be cool as Fonzie in the serene knowledge that “I got this”. You might luck out and get your licence in the first attempt, or you’d make a simple mistake or three and have to redo it at a later date. But once you got the piece of paper that said Mr/Miss Smith is certified capable of driving, you’d beg/borrow/steal the keys to Mum and/or Dad’s car and away you’d go. For me, it was in my Dad’s ex work car. Dad was a Telecom worker and drove the Toyota HiAce van, complete with four speed column shift MANUAL. Top speed in first? 20 kph…But I managed. I learned to drive this beast, took girlfriends and mates to the drives (drive in movies, for you young whipper snappers) before I got my first car. But I never had to take another test.

We’re now on the downhill slide towards Christmas of 2017, with just a couple of years before one fifth of the twenty first century is over. And in all states and territories but the state of New South Wales, you still don’t have a mandatory requirement to take another driver’s test, regardless of age. The NSW requirement that anyone older than 85 pass the driving test every two years seems to be doing nothing according to a recent submission to the NSW government’s StaySafe inquiry, as from 2010 to 2015, the number of licence holders older than 85 increased by 54 per cent while the number of fatalities increased 300 per cent. There was a 40 per cent increase in drivers aged 60 to 64.It seems nary a week goes by where the news doesn’t mention a crash allegedly caused by an elderly driver forgetting which pedal is for stop and which is for go. However, the inquiry is investigating whether drivers of all ages should be required to do more driver training to address the recent increase in road fatalities. Just about every independent driver training institution says yes, but in which forms, is yet to be decided. The inquiry did note, however, that a pensioner’s group asked to be part of the inquiry had not provided any suggestions appropriate for this group of drivers.

NSW is the only state to offer the very popular modified licence to drive to the shops for drivers over a certain age, for example, or within a radius around their homes. Around a third of older drivers have a modified licence. This doesn’t require drivers to sit the test, providing their doctor says they’re healthy enough to continue driving. 85 year old Shirley Bains, from the Blue Mountains, was one of those that said the driving test for people of her age was discriminatory, having passed her mandatory re-test on the first attempt.Herein lies a major problem with road safety. Under the current system in NSW, Australia’s most populous state, there’s a gap of nearly seventy years between obtaining your driver’s licence and having to undertake another test, whilst elsewhere there’s NO requirement to be retested. However, it’s clear that there’s more to the driver issues seen on the road than “merely” undertaking another test. Driver trainers will tell you, emphatically, that speed is not the problem, but the emphasis placed on speeding as the cause of crashes, fatal or non, by the governments, overlooks and even shadows other aspects of why people crash. Drive around in Sydney and the surrounds, you’ll be constantly reminded of this as there’s no other signage warning you to drive appropriately apart from the ones that tell you of the use of speed cameras. Cross the border into Victoria or the ACT, and the same applies.

Where’s the signage telling you to indicate, to use headlights, to not tailgate, to stay in the left lane if travelling at more than 80 kph? Where’s the government advertising for the same? Why isn’t it law to NOT have earpods in whilst driving? There’s so many more questions to be asked. So what do YOU think? What do you feel can be, should be, done to improve our driver standards? Should people 85 and over Australia wide be rested or should ALL drivers be retested every five or ten years after obtaining their licence?

Kia Sorento Updates For Better Value.

Kia‘s award winning large SUV, the Sorento, has been given a mild makeover however it’s enough to provide a fresh look both inside and out. There’s also been some model changes. Here’s what’s been done.
Exterior.
There’s revised front and rear bumpers, new LED head-lamps for the now top of the range GT-Line (Platinum has been discontinued) and tail-lamps for SLi and GT-Line, and a new dark metallic finish to the iconic “tiger-nose” grille. Kia says the result is a more sophisticated and purposeful front-end appearance. A new Gravity Blue exterior paint finish is now available, as well as a new design for the Sorento’s 17-, 18- and 19-inch aluminium alloy wheels. The GT-Line gains bespoke enhancements, including four-lamp LED fog lights, red brake calipers, a more prominent sill step, and subtle GT Line badging designed to distinguish it from other Sorento models, plus a distinctive chrome twin exhaust tip.

Interior.
Inside, the cabin features a newly-designed steering wheel and driver instrument cluster, as well as a new climate control LCD display. The dashboard also features a new Audio Visual Navigation (AVN) system which has increased in size from 7 inches to 8 inches. There’s also an increased proportion of soft touch materials and leather for a more premium cabin ambience. Optional black and stone leather upholstery is also available for Aurora Black and Gravity Blue SLi models. The GT-Line driver’s seat is equipped with four-way lumbar support, plus gains unique paddle shifts and satin chrome highlights. The SLI gets two-way adjustable lumbar support to enhance seating comfort.The new Sorento also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for full smartphone integration. Android Auto is designed to work with Android phones running 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher whilst Apple CarPlay is best suited for iPhone 5 or newer.

The existing Infinity premium sound system in Sorento has been replaced with a high-end Harman/Kardon® sound system in SLi and GT-Line trim levels. The powerful 640-watt, 10-speaker surround-sound audio system features QuantumLogic with surround sound technology extracting signals from the original recording, redistributing them into an authentic, multi-dimensional soundstage. The final sound result is clear, refined and detailed playback of a driver’s favourite tunes.

Drivetrain.
The new Sorento is the first SUV from Kia available with the company’s new eight-speed automatic transmission. Designed in-house by Kia and launched in 2016, the transmission boasts 143 newly-patented technologies and delivers a slick-shifting, more decisive drive, while reducing emissions slightly, from 205g/km to 190 g/km. The new eight-speed automatic transmission requires fewer control valves, enabling a more direct mechanical link to the engine and is available on Sorento models powered by the 2.2-litre diesel engine and the 3.5-litre petrol engine, replacing the six-speed automatic transmission and the previously available 3.3L V6 petrol engine.

The new transmission offers four different drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart. Drivers can select their preferred mode with the Sorento’s electronic Drive Mode Select system. Each mode enables the driver to customise the powertrain’s responses to driver inputs, enhancing fuel economy or acceleration characteristics depending on driver preference. The Drive Mode Select also adapts the weight of the rack-mounted power steering system, for more relaxed or more immediate, engaging steering responses.

Pricing.
Pricing for the petrol variants is: Si $42,990 (+$2000); Sport $44,990 (previously Si Limited +$1000); SLi $46,990 (+$1000). Diesel pricing is: Si $45,490 (+$1000); Sport $48,490 (previously Si Limited +$1000); SLi $50,490 (+$1000); GT-Line $58,990 (+$500).

Tesla Powers Up Across Australia.

With the continued growth of the electric car segment, driven (no pun intended…well, maybe a little) by Tesla, the ability to travel further and further across the wide brown land has grown even more. Tesla has expanded its charging network further across Australia with the addition of five Superchargers across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia and there’s rapid growth of Destination Chargers across the country.

The Supercharger link between Melbourne and Adelaide is complete with the opening of Horsham in Victoria, and South Australian locations Keith, Clare Valley and Adelaide city centre. These additions allow owners to drive from Adelaide to Brisbane emissions-free.

Western Australia’s first Supercharger is now open at Eaton Fair Shopping Centre. Located two hours from Perth and just a few kilometres north of one of W.A.s oldest seaside cities, Bunbury, Eaton is a convenient stop on the way to Margaret River’s picturesque wine region. Tesla owners can enjoy the centre’s retail, food and 24/7 amenities while charging up to 270km of range in 30 minutes.

Australia now has a total of 18 Supercharger stations, with another 17 planned for installation. In just the last four months more than 80 Destination Chargers have been installed bringing the total number of sites around Australia to 384. Recent additions include South Australia’s Barossa Pavilions, a 75-acre hillside retreat located in the , and Deep Blue Hotel and Hot Springs in Warrnambool offering luxurious accommodation and coastal views along Victoria’s famous Great Ocean Road.

These Supercharger and Destination Charging locations are part of the largest electric vehicle infrastructure supply in Australia and Tesla’s continued effort to double the size of charging sites by the end of the year. Tesla Superchargers have a higher power output than the Destination Chargers, with up to 120 kilowatts of power providing up to 270 kilometres of range in just half an hour. Planning for the locations looks at easy to access sites that also provide food, beverage, facilities, shopping centres to allow for drivers to have a rest stop in a pleasant environment whilst recharging themselves and their cars.

Destination Chargers work on the same basis as the charger you’d have installed at home. These allow longer stops for drivers whilst they charge at 40 kilometres of range every hour on single phase or double that on three phase. Tesla provides a map of their Australian charger bases here: Tesla Australia charging locations.

 

Car Review: 2018 Holden Astra LS/LT/LT-Z Sedan

It’s back to the future for Holden as the Astra nameplate on a sedan resurfaces with the sedans developed in Europe and built in Korea. The name replaces the Cruze, itself a resurrection of a previously used nomenclature. We’ve had the European sourced Astra hatch for a while and there’s also a new wagon version on the way. Private Fleet spends time with the mid-spec LT, top spec LT-Z, and entry level LS (there’s also a LS+), all fitted with the same engine and transmission combination.Up front, and the sole choice for a powerplant in the Astra sedan, is a 1.4L petrol engine, complete with turbo and good for 110 kilowatts. There’s 240 torques available between 2000 to 4000 rpm, with an extra five if you go for the six speed manual which is available in the LS only. Recommended go-go juice for the 52 litre tank is 91RON, of which it’ll drink at over eight litres per one hundred kilometres in an urban environment. On the freeway AWT saw a best of 6.3 in the LS and 7.1L/100 km in the LT-Z. Holden’s Astra sedan brochure doesn’t appear to specify weight, however elsewhere it’s quoted as being just under 1300 kilograms.The engine itself is a willing revver, especially so when the torque is on tap…for the most part. What was noticeable was the lag between a hard prod of the go-pedal, the change down a cog or two, and the resulting leap forward. In tighter Sydney traffic when a quick response was needed in changing lanes, that hesitation could potentially result in a safe move not being as safe as it should be. Also, in the LS, a noticeable whine, an unusual note at that, was audible and not found in the LT or LT-Z. Otherwise, once warmed up, the six speed auto had invisible gear changes up and down on a flat road, and downshifted nicely, holding gears, on the bigger downward slopes out west.It’s a trim, lithe, almost handsome car to look at though. It’s a longish 4665 mm in length and hides a boot of good depth and breadth at 465 litres. The rear deck lid does have old school hinges that swing down into the boot space though. The boot on the LT and LT-Z gain a small, discreet, lip spoiler as well. It’s also broad, with over 1800 mm in total width, and stands 1457 mm tall. What this gives you is 1003 mm front headroom, 1068 mm legroom, 1394 mm shoulder room, and in the rear 1350 mm shoulder room. 939 mm and 951 mm are the numbers in the rear for leg and head room.Up front, the three are virtually identical, bar chrome strips in the lower corners of the front bar for the LT/LT-Z. The headlights are LED DRL backed from the LS+ upwards and provide quite a decent spread of light. The headlight surrounds themselves gleam in the sunlight and add a solid measure of presence to the look. Wheels wise they’re all alloys, with a 16/17/18 inch and appropriate tyre size to match. There’s 205/55/16, 225/45/17, and 225/40/18s. And each of these contribute to the ride quality to the differing models…The LS is undoubtably the most plush, soft, of the three, but by no means does it lack grip when pushed. The rubber on the LS is from Hankook, the LT and LT-Z have Kumho Ecsta. Both brands provide more than enough grip and even occasionally chirp when when hard acceleration is given and both brands do provide a rumble, a somewhat intrusive rumble, on the coarser chip tarmac in Sydney. The LT and LT-Z also benefit from the fettling the Australia engineers have given, with a firmer and more sporting ride, less rebound but a small measure of more harshness.All three are brilliant freeway cruisers but it’s around town that the suspension tune really shines. In the varied road conditions that Sydney throws up, from table flat to mildly pockmarked to rutted and broken tarmac, all three dealt with them adroitly and with the words “sure footed” writ large. Only occasionally would the LT-Z, with the stiffest feel, skip and that was more so on the more ragged undulations that some corners have. There’s plenty of conversation from the steering wheel vinyl in the LS, leather in the LT/LT-Z), with an almost tactile amount of constant feedback through to the driver.Speaking of steering, the design of the wheel itself has your hands feeling as if they’re sitting between ten & two and eleven & one. The horizontal spokes sit just that little too high for a totally comfortable feel. You’ll also dip out on electric seats, even in the LT-Z, however there is more manual adjustment than in the LS. Across the range you’ll get auto headlights (which have an overly sensitive sensor), parking sensors, reverse camera, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, along with a seven inch and eight inch touchscreen for LS and the LT models.

Digital radio is also on board the LT and LT-Z to take advantage of the quite decent speakers on board. Also available in the LT and LT-Z are parking assist and with front parking sensors, Blind Spot Alert, auto headlights with tunnel detection, whilst the LS+ joins the party with Lane Keep Assist, following distance indicator, and Forward Collision Alert. However, window wise, only the LT-Z gets auto up and down for the driver’s window.Trim wise it’s cloth seats or machine made leather, soft-ish touch plastic on the dash, a grey coloured surround for the touchscreen and a frankly boring look for that in the LS, versus a higher sense of appeal and presence in the LT/LT-Z with chrome and piano black. Aircon in the LS is dialled in whereas the others get dials but with LEDs in the centre to show temperature and add more visual pizzaz. There’s a colour info screen in the LT and LT-Z’s driver binnacle which mirrors that seen in the touchscreen. Both look fantastic and appeal greatly. The LS? Standard monochrome. There’s clearly a high level of quality in the build being based on a Korean sourced sedan, but inside the Astra sedan does lack visual appeal, even though it’s not a physically unpleasant place to be.At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing, just a few days before Holden ceases manufacturing, the company had announced a seven year warranty being made available for the Astra range. However, there are terms and conditions so please speak to your local Holden dealership. Also, again at the time of writing (October 2017), the LS Astra sedan was being offered from $20990 driveaway if you choose the manual. Pick the self shifter it’s from $21990. The LS+ auto is from $23490 with the LT and LT-Z from $26290 and $30290 respectively. Again, please check with your local dealer. Those prices include stamp duty, 12 months rego and compulsory third party insurance, by the way.

All three (of the four trim levels available) cars tested did not disappoint; the LT-Z for me would be the pick, if only for the more sporting feel of the ride, the higher trim level and the fact that DAB is included, as it is below this model. But as a model range intended to effectively assist in kickstarting the importation model for Holden from October 2017 onwards, it’s somehow slipped under the radar. And that, so far, is a shame because it’s a very capable vehicle and more than worthy of continuing the legacy of the Holden Astra name.
Here’s where to go for inforamtion: 2018 Holden Astra range