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Driving in Australia

Say Hello To The New Baleno and Colorado.

Suzuki Australia has announced that the Baleno has been given an update and will be available in Australia late this year. The new look Baleno GL will be here from August and the Baleno GLX variant available for purchase from September 2019. Pricing will remain incredibly sharp, with the Baleno GL and with a manual transmission starting at $15,990, the auto just $1,000 more, and the auto only GLX at $18,990.

Key changes to the exterior design include a newly designed front grille, revised front and rear bumpers, whilst the 15” steel wheel hub cap and the 16” alloy wheel have received an updated look.
The updated Baleno GLX will also feature UV protection glass on the windscreen, upgraded headlight projectors from HID to LED, plus automatic headlight leveling. Metallic paint is a $500 option, and the colour range is: Fire Red, Arctic White, Granite Gray Metallic, Stargraze Blue Metallic, and Premium Silver Metallic. Interior changes are limited to a revised door trim colour plus all-new seat fabric design and colour. All engine configuration and specifications remain unchanged as per the current model.

Suzuki Australia General Manager – Automobile, Mr. Michael Pachota said the introduction of the updated Baleno will be key for Suzuki’s growth in the light car segment. “A welcome improvement has been introduced in the Series II with a sleek but aggressive sporty aesthetic, amongst other additions. The new look design successfully freshens up the Baleno and remains perfectly fit in our Suzuki model line-up for the Australian automotive market.”

He added: “Impressively, even with these improvements, current pricing is sustained and with the recent introduction of a 1.4 litre engine in the GLX variant, bringing the entire range below $18,900 RRP, will no doubt further increase our opportunity in the light car segment.”

The new look Baleno comes with Suzuki’s 5 year Capped Price Service (CPS) warranty program.

Holden have also updated one of their staples in the stable. The Colorado has a new addition and some extra features added as standard. The model designated as LSX is now the entry level to the Colorado family. Sitting at the top of the tree is the Z71 and this now hasrugged fender flares and a bash plate now standard on the flagship model. A convenient new ‘soft drop’ tailgate is also exclusive to the range topping Z71, while the mid-range LTZ 4×4 gains leather trimmed seats with the front ones now heated. The Z71 and LTZ now also receive a Duraguard spray on tub liner as standard.
“The addition of the DuraGuard tub-liner means that MY20 Z71 and LTZ Colorado are the only pick-ups that retail for under $70,000 to feature this premium technology as standard equipment,” Andre Scott, the general manager of light commercial vehicle marketing at Holden, said. Careful research has also produced factory backed accessory packs, with Mr Scott adding: “Take the Tradie pack for example. It includes a towing package, side and rear steps, a roof tray, 12V auxiliary power, floor mats, canvas seat covers, weather shields, bonnet protector and cup holders – it’s enough to make sure any jobsite is done and dusted.”
Contact Holden for availabiliy details.

Upgrades and Updates Makes Tesla Longer Lasting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Car Review: 2019 Tesla Model X 100D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s School Time!

By now, all the schools around the country have re-started for the year, which means that a lot of us will have gone back to Mum’s Taxi and Dad’s Taxi duties again.  For some of you, your teenager has finally got their provisional license and can drive him/herself to school.

This means that there are going to be a lot more cars buzzing around schools, especially at the start and end of the school day.  Depending on where you live and what your school does, there may be school buses and shuttles involved as well.  In short, there’s a ton of traffic in a small area, and vehicle traffic isn’t the only sort around, as there will also be kids on bikes, kids on scooters and lots of kids walking.  In some cases, especially in rural and small-town schools, you can see other forms of transport being used – farm tractors, for example.

Nobody wants to make the news by being involved in a horrible accident involving school kids, so it’s probably about time that we thought about a few things we can do to make sure that our kids are safe as they go to and from school.

As a quick aside here, this is another area where autonomous cars are a real no-go.  Autonomous cars work by predicting what ought to happen or what is likely to happen.  Unfortunately, small children can be pretty unpredictable, especially when they’re all excited as they get out of school, and their erratic behaviour hasn’t been programmed into the control centre of an autonomous car.  So I’m thankful that the typical Aussie Mum and Dad still drive cars the old-school way!

First of all, although the designated school zones – the ones marked with flashy lights, road markings and signs – are the real hot spots, the activity around schools during the pick-up and drop-off times spreads further afield, so don’t just keep alert for kids in the actual areas. The precautions apply for at least a block further than that during busy times.

There are three general guiding principles that will help you negotiate this part of the school run safely:

  1. Slow down.
  2. Expect the unexpected.
  3. Don’t get in other people’s way.

Slowing Down

Slowing down to 40 km/h is the law in designated school zones, and failing to do so will (at least in New South Wales) get you double demerit points if the cops catch you at it.  The reason for this is simple: if you’re going slowly, you have more time to react and more time to stop when little Bella decides to rush across the road yelling “Mummy!  Mummy!  Guess what happened at school today!” or when the family dog who came along for the ride whizzes out of the car when little Charlie is putting his schoolbag in the boot.  What’s more, if the worst comes to the worst and an accident happens, lower speeds mean less damage.

I know we’ve discussed speed limits and whether or not speed is what kills in other posts, but nobody in their right mind should want to go at screaming high speeds around a school, even if their car is capable of it.  This is one place where the speed limits really do apply.  In fact, around the busy schools in my area, I’d actually prefer to go even slower than the 40 km/h limit during the active hours.  (The open road is another story.)

Expecting The Unexpected

Kids aren’t adults.  They are immature.  They are impulsive.  They are still learning that the world does not revolve around them (and some people seem to never learn this lesson!).  Some of them have been sitting down in school for the whole day and have serious ants in their pants.  This means that they can do some weird things and they can move quite fast.  We can drum the road safety message into them as much as possible, but there will be those moments when they forget it all and rush out into the road, or they’ll be so busy talking to friends that they don’t stop, look and listen.  This means that you, as the adult who’s got a driver’s license to prove that you’re responsible, have to be the one on high alert, ready for anything.  This means no phones, not even hands-free ones.  It probably means switch the radio off and get rid of anything else that could distract you.

You may need to be extra careful if your car is an electric vehicle or a hybrid (which will be using the electric motor at school zone speeds).  This is because a lot of EVs and hybrids are quieter than petrol and diesel engines, even if they have that little noise (which some older hybrids don’t have).  This means that the Listen part of the old Stop, Look and Listen is a bit harder.  Even adults can have near misses (that’s me with my hand up here) if they’ve looked one way, looked the other, thought it was clear and didn’t hear the oncoming hybrid/EV and started stepping out.

The flip side of this is that if you’re a parent, you should take a few steps to minimise the risk of your child running across the road.  This usually means parking on the same side of the road as the school, which is what the official advice says.  However, if everybody parks on the same side of the road as the school, the trail of parked cars will stretch well beyond the designated zone.  This might mean that your child will have to cross a road to get to where you’re parked.  It’s best if you get out of the car and walk to the school gate to collect Bella and Charlie (and the rest of the kids if you’re part of a carpool scheme).

You also need to make sure that you’re not the person doing unexpected things.  This means no U-turns, no sudden manoeuvres, no three-point turns, etc.  Plan your route so these aren’t necessary – and go around the block instead of doing U-turns, etc.  The only sudden manoeuvre you’re allowed to make is hitting the brakes if you see a child about to go where they shouldn’t.

Staying Out Of The Way

You can see some people doing silly things around schools, and I’m not talking about the children this time.  Yes, I know that you’re in a hurry.  I know that you think your child is amazing and you love him/her to bits.  I know that you’ve got to scream across town for soccer practice.  However, there is no excuse for parking in the school bus zone, double-parking or parking really, really close to the school crossing point.  It’s absolute chaos when every single Parent’s Taxi tries to park as close to the school gate as legally possible.

Congestion near schools during the busy times is a bit of a problem that councils and schools are trying hard to address because it can be chaos and an accident waiting to happen.  My preference (at least when my kids were still at school and didn’t drive themselves) was to park a bit further away, then walk that extra block or so.  After all, it won’t hurt you or your kids to walk a little!

In the case of picking up kids from secondary schools, you may have to park even further away, as a lot of the close parking spots are taken by the P-platers who drive themselves to school.  High school kids, however, are usually a bit more streetwise and are less likely to suddenly rush into the road without looking, although there are times when they’ve got their earbuds in or when they’re madly catching up on social media…

I’d also strongly argue for other initiatives as well as a way of reducing congestion around schools.  Setting up a carpool scheme with other parents who live near you is a popular option and it means that instead of four cars arriving with one child each, you get one car with four kids.  Walking school buses and “Kiss and Ride” drop-off spots are other options.  Of course, if you live within 2 km of the school, then walking to and from the school is an option (and it’s free!).  You’ll need to walk with your child until he/she is old enough to have the street smarts to do it solo – and this is usually the age when they are embarrassed to be seen with parents, so that works out well.

If you haven’t got school aged children and you’re not doing the Parent’s Taxi run, then it’s best to plan your journey so that you don’t have to drive near a school during the busy hours.  Go another way if you have to or make that trip at another time.

If we all do our bit, then our kids will stay safe as they go to and from school.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Lexus LC 500

This Car Review Is About:
The 2019 Lexus LC 500. It’s a big, luxury oriented, coupe with stand out styling, a brawny 5.0L V8, and a fair bit of heft. There’s heft to the price too: $189,629 plus on road costs as of February 2019.Under The Bonnet Is:
A V8 of five litres capacity. It’s the same one as found in the GS F, which produces 351kW and 530 Nm. Consumption on the combined cycle is rated as 11.6L/100km. There’s a ten speed auto that hooks up to the rear wheels via a Torsen limited slip diff, and if you’re a touch green around the gills, a hybrid version is available. Transmission changes are made via paddle shifts on the steering column, and the gear selector is atypical in that it’s a rocker movement towards the right, forward for reverse, back for Drive, and Park is a P button. Back to the left where M is listed gives Manual control.On The Inside Is:
A stupidly small amount of room. It’s a BIG looking car, with 4770mm overall length, a wheelbase of 2870mm, and 1630mm track. The driver sits just aft of the mid point and has plenty of leg room forward. So does the passenger. But it’s here that the good news ends. The rear seats are great for a suitcase or a bag or two of shopping. With the front seats in a suitable position up front, the gap between rear of seat and squab is minimal. Minimal. The up side is that the powered seats self adjust for fore & aft movement when the lever to flip them forward for rear seat access is pulled up.The seats themselves are low set, meaning anyone with muscle issues may struggle to lever themselves up and out. And with a low roof height, raising the seats may compromise the noggin of taller drivers.

Then there’s the passenger section. It’s quite aligned with a single seat fighter jet in concept, with a tub and grab handles on either side. Then there’s the dash. The passenger gets little to look at directly ahead apart from a sheet of faux carbon fibre style material, and Lexus have left the LC 500 with the multi-fold design. The air-con vents are squirreled away in a niche line with just a single vent in direct centre. Sometimes it felt as if the air flow isn’t happening.Up top and centre is the Lexus display screen. It’s wide, in full colour high definition, and operated via a track pad (no mouse) in the centre console. In full daylight it’s still clearly visible. Unfortunately, in a well meant effort to add extra visual splash, there is a aluminuim strip just below it and sitting on top of the centre airvent. It catches sunlight really well, and spreads it around the cabin really well. That includes straight back into the driver’s eyes.

Drive mode selectors have been relocated from here and are on dials on the left and right of the driver binnacle. The binnacle houses a full colour LCD screen that has a sliding circle that activates different looks to the screen. Yes, it might be somewhat gimmicky but it also allows a driver to choose some or all info at will. A super clear HUD is also fitted and again, it’s excellent in its instinctiveness.

The rear seat, what there is of it, is largely hampered by the exterior design. And there’s some interior fitment that is part of it. Lexus have moved the battery to under a boot floor cover to help with weight distribution. But the slope of the rear window line means head room is compromised, and the boot itself is two overnight bags in capacity.There is a very good range of interior trim colour combinations, with a total of eight coverings and shades available. They’re all a great place to sit and listen to the excellent Mark Levinson audio system which is DAB compatible, plus allows DVD playback. Speaker count? 13, sir.

The Outside Is:
Eyecatching. The low height, 1345mm from tyre bottom to carbon fibre roof top, makes the car look lithe, svelte, and a set of coke bottle hips add a measure of sensuality to the lines. A slim, broad, front houses a beautifully sculpted triangular design that has LED headlights, driving lights, and indicators in a vertical strip. Huge 21 inch polished alloys are clad in 245/45 rubber from Michelin, bookending that pinched in waist and airvents to reduce wheel well pressure.The boot really is tiny, at something like 195L of capacity. There also doesn’t appear to be an external button to open it either, with the key fob and interior tabs the seemingly only method. The bootlid also holds the wing, activated via a centre console mounted tab. Rear lights are wrapped in a chrome housing and their sharp edged look complements the nose. Exhaust pipes are buried in an elegant looking rear valance.The test car came in White Nova, a semi pearlescent shade. There are ten (yes, ten) other colours such as Zinnia Yellow and Garnet to choose from. All colours do a great job of highlighting the LC’s distinctive lines, and complement the somewhat restrained look the spindle grille has. Yes, you read that right. The grille is not the stand out part of the car’s look.

On The Road It’s:
Hobbled by its heft. Although looking like a relative lightweight, thanks to its low height and slim lines, there’s over 1900kg hiding under the skin. And with the engine producing peak torque at over 4000rpm, acceleration is quick, changes are quick, but everything feels dulled off slightly. It lacks the rawness, the sharpness, the knife edged attitude of the GS F, and in reality it’s more of a Grand Tourer in nature. It doesn’t provoke the same visceral response that the GS F provided. The Torsen differential is noticeable, too, in slow speed tight corners as found in Sydney’s north shore, and there’s a rear end skip on certain long sweepers that have road expansion joints built in, momentarily unsettling the LC’s broad rear end. Launch hard in a straight line and there’s a squirm from the rear as the meaty rubber grabs hold.Actual ride quality is tending towards the jiggly side when driving in the normal mode. Although there is an active suspension on board, it really doesn’t come into play until Sport/Sport+ is engaged. Suddenly the road feels smoother, handling sharpens up, and the engine note seems more brusque, with an added bite. And it is perhaps the engine that is, in an audible sense, the highlight of the whole package. Press the start button and there’s a quick whirr before a guttural growl comes from the pipes. It’s a higher pitch in tone compared to the more subterranean note from the GS F on idle, and there’s a real edge of anger to it when seriously under way. And thankfully there’s a real sense of the fire and brimstone being thrown around thanks to the snarl, and the crackle & pop of the engine on upshifts and backing off the throttle.The transmission is a gem however not always seamless in changes. When easing the LC around the exhaust note is comparatively subdued, but get in on the freeway and stand on the go pedal to fully appreciate the ferocity of the engine and sound. It does take some time, relatively speaking, for the urge the engine has to kick in, but when it does overtaking numbers are stellar. And so is the exhaust; it doesn’t caress the ears, it grabs them and pounds the angry notes down into them. That’s thanks to what Lexus call “sound control valves” that open and close on demand to offer the changing soundscape. That’s aided and abetted by an Active Noise Control system that cancels out extraneous noise, not unlike noise cancelling headphones.And The Safety Factor Is:
Naturally very, very high. The brakes, like the whole LC, don’t have the instantaneous response from breathing upon the pedal that the GS F has, but there’s no doubting the stopping power regardless. Six pistons up front and four at the rear haul up the LC confidently every time. Partnered with the full suite of active and passive safety systems, such as Lane Keep Assist, Radar Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, and a pedestrian safety bonnet, it’s well up there on the safety ladder.The Warranty Is:
Four years or 100,000 kilometres, with the additional benefit of Lexus Drive Care. That covers items such as a up to $150 one way taxi fares, a courier service for small parcels, even personal and clothing costs up to $250. Contact Lexus for servicing costs, though.

At The End Of The Drive.
After an engaging week with the LC 500, we came away with the strong feeling that it’s a definite GT, a Grand Tourer. It’s a relaxed and comfortable highway & freeway machine, but suffers in comparison in tight inner city and suburbia. The aural appeal is huge on start up, but the limited room inside and in the boot really count it out of being anything other than a single or couple’s car. For a more multi-purpose and/or family oriented performance car from Lexus, the GS F fits the bill far better.

Get a start on comparing your desires for grand touring inside the 2019 Lexus LC 500 here.

 

 

A.N.C.A.P.

All new vehicles sold in Australia and surrounding areas MUST undergo testing to determine, in a level of stars up to five, how safe that car is. The higher the number and, ostensibly, the safer the car. The Australasian New Car Assessment Program is what is used and it’s a substantial overview of what makes a car tick the boxes safety wise.

From January 1 of 2018, ANCAP changed the parameters in what they were looking for in categories. There are four key areas: Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, Vulnerable Road User Protection, and Safety Assist.

First up is Adult Occupant Protection. ANCAP looks at the kind of protection, the kind of safety, offered to the most likely passengers in the front and second row seats of a car. They look at offset impacts, side impacts, whiplash injuries for front and second row, Autonomous Emergency Braking in a city setting, and rate the categories appropriately. Full width and frontal offset are the highest for adults, with a score of 8 being applied along with 8 for Side Impact and Pole (oblique). That last one is not uncommon, as it’s been found that drivers looking at an object in a crash situation have a higher tendency to impact that object.To achieve a five star rating for Adult Occupant Protection, the areas must achieve a total of 80% of the possible maximum score of 38. 80% is also the minimum requirement for the Child Occupant Protection, which has a maximum score of 49. There are just four margins here, Dynamic (Front) at 16 points, Dynamic (Side) with 8, 12 points for Child Restraint Installation, and 13 for On Board Features.

On the star rating, Adult Occupant and Child Occupant both have 80% to reach five stars. 70% is four stars, 60% for three stars, 50% for two stars, and 40% for just one star. Vulnerable Road User Protection and Safety Assist have 60% and 70% respectively.Vulnerable Road User Protection takes a look at Head Impact (24 points), with 6 points apiece for Upper Leg Impact, Lower Leg Impact, pedestrian related AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) and cyclist related AEB. The specifications here are about looking at frontal designs of vehicles; will it mitigate injury to a pedestrian and/or cyclist, and will it overall mitigate or avoid impact with pedestrians and/or cyclists?

The final sector, Safety Assist, measures the amount of safety features (the presence factor) and effectiveness of those systems. The current maximum score is 13, with 2020 moving that to 16. Speed Assistance Systems are rated to 3 points, Seat Belt reminders also rate as 3, and Lane Support Systems as 4. AEB in an inter-urban environment is current 3, with that increasing to 4 in 2020. A new category, Junction Assist, with two points, comes in next year.

A.N.C.A.P. themselves says:

In the real-world…

AEB systems use camera, radar and/or lidar technology to detect the speed and distance of objects in the vehicle’s path and automatically brake if the driver does not respond in order to avoid or minimise the severity of a crash.

At our test centre…

Over 100 different AEB test scenarios form part of our assessment with a vehicle’s ability to autonomously brake at lower city speeds (AEB City); at faster highway speeds (AEB Interurban); at stationery vehicle targets; at moving targets; and at braking targets all taken into consideration. Vulnerable road users are also considered, with collision avoidance testing undertaken to encourage and determine the effectiveness of more sophisticated AEB systems, detecting and preventing or minimising collisions with pedestrians and cyclists (AEB VRU) – at daytime and at night.

Autonomous emergencybraking diagram

Scores achieved in each physical and performance test feed into the respective area of assessment. The overall star rating of a vehicle is limited by its lowest performing area of assessment.

(With thanks to A.N.C.A.P.)

 

 

 

A Legend Returns: Toyota Supra Is Back.

One of the automotive world’s worst kept secrets was finally let into the public domain today. The Toyota Supra is back in the automotive spotlight and harks back to history with its classic straight six engine up front driving the rear wheels. Dubbed the GR Supra, it’s due to land in Australia in late 2019.The fifth generation platform packs a 250kW/500Nm, twin-scroll turbocharged, six cylinder engine of 3.0L capacity. Power hits the tarmac via Toyota’s eight speed automatic gearbox. Toyota’s Gazoo Racing section has been brought in to work on the cars which are all to be built in Graz, Austria. Testing was held at the Nürburgring Nordschleife and included a session with Toyota’s own president, Akio Toyoda. Launch Control sees a zero to one hundred time of 4.3 seconds.The driver can take control of gear changes using paddle shifts on the steering wheel and can select Normal or Sport driving modes to suit their preference and the conditions. The vehicle stability control has a special “track” setting that can be selected, reducing the level of system intervention so the driver has greater control of the vehicle’s dynamic performance.Design cues from Toyota’s heritage are evident in the sheetmetal. The S2000‘s long bonnet inside a compact body shape, with the distinctive “double bubble” roof is complemented by the fourth generation’s broad rear flanks and rear spoiler. Toyota’s penchant for pet names is here, with chief designer Nobuo Nakamura giving his team a simple brief around the concept of “Condensed Extreme“, ensuring they were free to express their vision of a pure and individual sports car in a truly original design.

There are three distinct elements to the GR Supra’s look: a short wheelbase, large wheels and wide stance; a taut, two-seat cabin; and a long bonnet with a compact body that reflects the drivetrain combination of in-line six engine and rear-wheel drive. All are embodied by the “Condensed Extreme” ethos. And although bigger than the two door 86 coupe, it’s a shorter wheelbase and rolls on bigger rubber.The driver and passenger are facing a distinctively designed cabin with a cockpit taking cues from a single seat race car. The seats themselves are race influenced, with thick bolsters for extra side support, holding the driver and passenger snugly. The dashboard is a low slung affair, allowing excellent forward vision, with the asymmetric centre console marking a clear division between the enveloping driver’s cockpit and the more open passenger side of the Toyota GR Supra’s cabin.Toyota’s engineering teams have worked to give the GR Supra a superlative ride and handling package. Structural rigidity is said to be higher than the Lexus LFA supercar, with a centre of gravity lower than the 86 and a 50:50 weight distribution, with the movement of the engine rearwards to achieve that figure, contributing to the end result.A newly designed suspension frame has a five-link rear end matched by a double-joint spring MacPherson front. Unsprung weight is helped by using aluminuim for the control arms and swivel bearings. Each corner has 19 inch forged alloys wrapping high-performance stoppers. Every Supra that will be sold in Australia will have an active differential for even better handling.

Pricing for Australia is yet to be confirmed. Contact your Toyota dealer for details of the forthcoming 2020 Toyota GR Supra.

The Fine Art of Waving

Well, I hope that 2019 has started well for you.  If you are reading this while still out on a road trip, good for you!

I also covered a few miles over the holiday season, driving to visit relatives as well as to get a bit of R & R.  While toddling around the place and occasionally zooming around the place, it came to my attention that when you’re driving in rural areas, it seems to be the done thing to wave to other drivers… but not if the traffic’s heavy.  There seems to be some sort of unwritten code about waving at other drivers.  Well, it’s about time that this code got written down!

The first rule seems to be that like waves to like.  You don’t see car drivers waving to truckers, truckers waving to motorcyclists or motorcyclists waving to car drivers.  However, truckers wave to truckers, car drivers to car drivers, and motorcyclists to other motorcyclists.  There are a few exceptions to this rule.  Small children riding as passengers are allowed to wave at anybody and should be waved back to because it’s a nice thing to do and provides a bit of a human connection during a long boring trip in the back of the car while visiting Grandma.  Truckers and motorcyclists are also allowed to wave back to children on the side of the road who wave to them.  The other exceptions to the “like waves to like” rule are (a) if someone has pulled over to let you pass or done something else nice and (b) if you recognize the other driver.  Actually, these last two exceptions always apply: one always acknowledges friends and extra courteous behaviour.

Waving is also only done to oncoming vehicles. You do not wave to vehicles that you’re overtaking or who are overtaking you.  You also do not wave to stationary vehicles or to vehicles in the lane beside you.  Only oncoming drivers count.

The next rule for waving as a car driver is that it only really takes place in rural areas and in places where the traffic isn’t heavy.  We don’t wave to each oncoming vehicle in the city – in the city, we tend to see other cars as impersonal things coming towards us as we travel along in our little metal bubbles.  In the country, however, another driver is another human in a large and mostly empty landscape.  If rural traffic is heavy for whatever reason – congested interstate highways and the roads leading to music festivals, for example – then waving is optional.

Thinking about this, it would be kind of fun to extend the “like waves to like” rule to city driving as well, just to add a bit more of a personal side to things. After all, driving is becoming more and more automated these days, and we spend so much time connecting with others via screens, so a bit more contact with real humans is always welcome.  However, you don’t want to spend half your driving time waving.  I therefore propose the following: in the city, you can wave to other cars with the same make, model and colour as yours.  Like calling “Snap!”  This kind of happens already in the case of classic cars and in the case of somewhat less common vehicles.  But let’s all give it a go!

In fact, Nissan had a campaign a few years back (in 2011, in fact) trying to come up with an official wave for drivers of the LEAF  hybrid to give other LEAF drivers.  A hunt through the Nissan Electric Facebook page  suggests that the results were inconclusive but at least they tried…  Maybe they tried too hard.

Let us now turn back to the typical wave from driver to driver on a rural road.  How does one do it?  Fully taking one hand off the wheel and sticking it out the window while waving frantically is only saved for when you see a friend driving the other way.  If you do it at a stranger, you’re a bit of a weirdo and you’ve transgressed the code of behaviour.

There seem to be different types of wave.  All of them are considered polite acknowledgements of fellow drivers and you are free to choose any style that suits you.  If you are particularly bored and want to keep the passengers amused, get them to keep a score and see which one is the most popular.

  • The nod: This is the most basic acknowledgement of the humanity of another driver. This is done by quickly bowing one’s head forward or in the direction of the other driver (i.e. on a slight diagonal).  Used by more introverted people, staunch silent types and those who like to have both hands on the wheel at all times.
  • The single finger: No, not THAT single finger salute! This is the polite version and is a bit more visible than the nod.  This involves straightening the index finger (pointer) of one hand or the other (usually the right hand – but I’m right-handed.  Do lefties raise the pointer of their left hands?).  All other fingers stay curled around the steering wheel.
  • The flap: This is an extension of the single finger wave. Instead of just one finger uncurling and leaving the wheel, all fingers plus the thumb open up while the heel of the hand rests on the steering wheel, giving the oncoming driver a brief flash of palm.
  • The full hand: The whole hand leaves the steering wheel and is raised no further than head height. The palm faces the oncoming driver.
  • The karate chop: Here, the hand leaves the wheel can be lifted as high as high as the head or even slightly above it, but only the side of the hand is presented to the oncoming driver rather than the palm.  It’s kind of like a sloppy military salute.

What about not waving?  Is this acceptable?  The code here states that if the other person doesn’t wave to you, you don’t have to wave back.  However, if someone waves to you, it’s polite to wave back.  If you fail to wave back, you will be judged, often according to what you drive.  If you are driving a new(ish) luxury model, you will be perceived as a stuck-up snob who sees themselves as better than anybody else on the road.  If you are in a muscle car, you’re considered a power-obsessed jerk who thinks they own the road.  If you’re in a battered old vehicle, you’re considered to be a bum and a lout with no manners.  If you own a small hatchback, you’re considered to be a selfish millennial/old fogy.  If you drive none of the above, you’re just considered to be rude.  Children (or possibly other passengers if you’re bored enough) are then permitted to poke out tongues or do other rude hand signs at the non-wavers, preferably once they’ve passed out of sight or just as you’re passing each other.

Have a great summer of driving and always be courteous. Including waving.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Kia Optima Si

Kia’s once large sedan contender has been overshadowed by the Stinger, itself an excellent and vastly underrated vehicle. The Optima, though, remains the hidden gem in the bigger sedan family and the updated 2019 Kia Optima Si still impresses. The test car provided comes at a cost of $33,390, paint at $595 for premium paint, making the test car $33,985 plus on-roads.Power comes courtesy of a naturally aspirated 2.4L four for the Si or a turbocharged 2.0L four for the GT. Peak power is 138kW at 6000rpm, with peak torque a reasonable 241Nm. That comes in at 4000rpm, with a steady curve to there from idle. Powering the front wheels via a six speed auto that’s been slightly recalibrated for 2019, Kia quotes a combined fuel economy figure of 8.3L/100km from the 70 litre tank inside the 1540kg (dry) Optima.Rubber is from Continental, with Kia specifying their ContiPremiumContact5 at 215/55/17. It’s a grippy choice, with the front driven Optima making good use of the tyre’s adhesion. During the week’s review period, Sydney had both summer and winter driving conditions. The Continental rubber powered through both with equal levels of confidence. They also coped with the Si’s propensity to torque steer, an unusual sensation in an age where that quirk of front-wheel-drive cars is almost non-existent.Suspension is the proven combination of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear. The suspension has been massaged for the 2019 Optima, with the dampers erring towards the sporting side, a choice that sporting drivers will enjoy. Others may find that a little too severe. Indeed, on Sydney’s mix of unsettled and undulating roads as opposed to the new and smooth tarmac found in roadworks, the Optima Si had no issue in equalising both into a comfortable and composed ride. The only time PF semi-wished for a softer setup was over the bedamned shopping centre and local residence speed restrictors.The setup provides a nimble and communicative chassis. Steering input is received and processed quickly, with rapid changes of direction. Body roll is minimal, and the overall feel of the body is one of connection, not isolation from the road and its varying conditions. The steering is also relatively free from bump-steer.

Overall drive response is perhaps also not for those that aren’t of a sporting bent. The throttle response is virtually instant, with a “light-switch” feel. Tap the accelerator pedal and the engine engages instantly; go off, and it responds by damping down the revs quickly. It does take a bit of practice to get the smooth and progressive acceleration less responsive systems have. It’s a free revving engine, too, eagerly spinning around and bringing with it a steady rate of urge. It’s a tad buzzy past 4000rpm but that’s a rarity in seeing those numbers in normal driving. The transmission is a simply gorgeous piece of engineering, with invisible, seamless, changes. There’s no real sense of transition between ratios at all, with zero forward and back bodily movement as the cogs swap quietly and efficiently.Kia’s efficiency in packaging is in abundance in the Optima Si. Inside the 4855mm overall length, (yep, just 8.4 centimetres shorter than a VF Commodore) is a 2805mm wheelbase. That’s just eleven centimetres shorter than the Commodore’s. This equates to ample leg room front and rear, a luggage space of 450L (SAE measurement, 510L VDA, and complete with full sized spare), and 1475mm shoulder room up front. Rear seat passengers have 1432mm shoulder room and 904mm leg room.The Si has manually adjusted seats up front, with the driver getting a two position lumbar support seat. Cloth is the material of choice all round in the Si and all seats are comfortable enough to have passengers egress after a long drive feeling fine. Kia’s worked hard to make sure the cabin is a good place to be, and the quality of the fit and finish is testament to this. The trim is black, with a leather look texture, and there are subdued uses of an alloy hued plastic. The Optima has the almost standard arch sweep at the upper edge of the dash., joining in one fluid line both sides of the cabin.Switch-gear is typically clinical Kia in layout and look. The touchscreen in the Si is a seven inch unit, the GT gets an eight inch setup. Audio is AM/FM only with no DAB tuner fitted to both. The Si also misses out on satnav. However there is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with voice recognition, backed by Bluetooth streaming and the usual USB/Aux inputs. There are four cup holders and four bottle holders, map pockets, and back of seat pockets. Rear seat passengers also have a pair of charging sockets and air vents.The exterior received a mild refresh in 2018. The Schreyer grille now has an almost Maserati look to it, and the lower front bumper has been reprofiled with the lower intake now more angled in towards the corners towards deep-set cornering lights. The familiar angled headlights retain their LED driving lights and commence a long, sweeping, line to join the rear non-LED lights in the Si. The GT has LEDs here. The profile is a handsome coupe style and the test car came clad in Temptation Red.Safety is naturally of a high level with a five star rating. Lane Keep Assist and Autonomous Emergency Braking are standard, with the Si not receiving Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Dusk sensing headlights are standard, as are a pair of ISOFIX seat mounts. There are six airbags and the usual mandated safety equipment levels. Parking sensors front and rear take the edge off any parking problems in those tight shopping centre carparks.The seven year warranty is standard and Kia has a seven year fixed price servicing structure, with 15,000 kilometre or one year intervals. Year one/15,000 kilometres comes in at $289, with year four the most expensive at $559.

At The End Of The Drive.
The 2019 Kia Optima Si slides unhappily, it seems, into that niche of very good cars that are largely ignored by the buying public. Sedans on the whole are a class of car that were once loved but now sit, licking their wounds from an SUV mauling, in the shadows. The Optima itself, a handsome looker, a good drive, and well equipped, suffers from a number of factors in not having the sizeable presence it once had.

Head to the Kia website for more info.

The Right Car For Your Dog Part 2

OK, in my previous post on this topic, I covered the legal stuff to do with taking dogs in cars.  Now we get to the fun bit: what sort of vehicle suits your furry friend.  Or friends, as the case may be.

When I first started thinking about matching dogs to cars, I just about wrote sedans (saloons) off from the start.  After all, you don’t really want a dog on the back seat standing up where it can snuffle down the back of your neck while you’re driving.  Nor do you want to have scratchy doggy paws on lovely Nappa leather seats, because that would wreck them (the seat upholstery, I mean, not the paws!).  However, I remember taking the Staffordshire Bull Terrier we used to have (RIP, old fellow!) in a sedan without any trouble.  He was quite happy curling up in the footwell for most trips and didn’t try to sit on people’s laps (unlike the current bitzer).  During longer trips, we also put him in one of those doggy carrying crates that sat nicely between my two children in the back seat of the sedan we had back then (probably a Ford Fairmont), which had the added advantage of stopping them hitting each other during long trips.  What’s more, if you do have a sedan with leather seats in your possession already when you acquire a new puppy, there’s no need to sell the car – you can put down a nice blanket or doggy bed for Fido to occupy during the trip.

If you do decide that a sedan is the best for you, then I really do recommend one of those doggy carrying crates.  They do stop your dog deciding to stretch his or her legs by bouncing all around the place inside the cabin on a long journey, and you can fit a snack for your dog in there.  They’re also easier to clean in the case of little accidents – meaning accidents of the canine kind, not car accidents.

It’s obvious where the dog will ride if you have a hatchback, station wagon, 4×4 or ute. But it’s not quite as simple as that.  There is a certain style that one has to consider and it’s nice if you can find a harmonious match between the dog(s) and the vehicle.  You don’t see poodles or Chihuahuas standing on the deck of a ute (safely leashed, of course), bouncing up and down and yapping squeaky yaps at everybody going past.  Jack Russell terriers and fox terriers maybe.  But not poodles or Chihuahuas – or anything else small and fluffy (e.g. Bichons) or super-glamorous (Afghan hounds). The sort of dog that looks right on the back of a Toyota Hilux  or a Nissan Navara  is something rugged and tough and suggestive of the great outdoors – a farm dog (which aren’t an official Kennel Club breed but we all know what they look like) or a Dobermann or even a Labrador.  Conversely, although a Great Dane might fit in the back of a little hatchback – if the back seats are folded flat – this is going to be just too much dog in one car.  Besides, where are you going to put any passengers or your shopping where they won’t get slobbered on?

To give you an idea of how this works, here’s a list of the 10 most popular breeds in Australia (2017 statistics – the figures aren’t out for 2018 yet) matched the most appropriate general vehicle type:

Labrador Retriever:  Your Labs are medium-large dogs and although they can fit in the back of a hatchback or across the back seat, they look best in something larger.  It’s a cliché, but the suburban family SUV or MPV is a good match for the suburban family pooch.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier: A smaller dog that fits cosily into the back of even a 3-door hatch but doesn’t look weird tied on the deck of a ute, so a Staffie suits all vehicle types. However, as a short-coated dog that’s a big softy in spite of the tough looks, a Staffie would prefer to be inside the vehicle on a rainy day.  A hatchback suits a Staffie just fine.

French Bulldog:  Compact, French and a little bit quirky.  I have just described one of the smaller Peugeots but it applies to the dog as well.  A match made in… France.

German Shepherd: A big tough dog that is probably just about smart enough to drive the car.  Something with lots of space would do the job – maybe a nice long station wagon or a 4×4.  Put a German Shepherd in the back of a white Commodore or Falcon and you might get mistaken for a K-9 cop.

Border Collie:  Working collies go on the back of grubby farm utes.  Show-type border collies are better suited to something classy with a hint of the outdoors – say, a Range Rover.

Golden Retriever: See Labrador.  However, as this has longer hair, best to keep it out of the back seat of the MPV or any humans who later ride in these seats will be forever trying to get the dog hairs out of their clothes.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Another breed that looks loopy on the back of a ute and is so small that it will get lost in the interior of a big 4×4.  They love to snuggle up, so if the little hatchback is too small for you, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (big name for little dog) will be happy in a basket in a sedan.

American Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Amstaff): Like the regular Staffie but bigger, like all things American.  A muscle dog like the Amstaff looks best in a muscle car like your HSV or FPV.

Miniature Schnauzer:  A toy dog with a bit more fizz to it than a Cavalier etc., so not the sedan this time.  Go for the hatchback of any type or the station wagon.

Rottweiler: Go big.  This breed can cause serious damage to a little hatchback if it decides to jump onto the bonnet.  A station wagon at the very least; a 4×4 is even better but your Rotty will settle for an SUV.  Rotties were originally bred for pulling carts as well as herding cattle, so make sure your SUV has enough towing power that it can pull more than the dog.