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Driving in Australia

Is Your Car Winter-Ready?

Lake Mountain Road, Vic.

It might not quite be winter yet, but we have passed the autumn Equinox, which means that the time when the sun is up is shorter than the time when it’s down. This means that it’s time to think ahead and get your car ready for winter. Because there’s no point in getting ready for something if it’s already come and too late, right?

One thing we can be thankful for is that we don’t have to go through quite so extensive preparations for winter as they do in, say, Sweden or Canada… especially if you live in the northern bits of Australia when winter comes as welcome relief from the intense summer heat. However, the southern states and territories can get problems with frost and snow from time to time, and everybody gets things wetter and rainier (except in the very far north in places like Darwin, who have their rainy monsoon period during the summer).

As things are going to get wetter, the most important thing you need to do to get your car winter-ready is to check your tyres.  First of all, they need to have plenty of tread on them, as it’s the tread that channels out the water so you still get plenty of grip.  When it comes to tyre styles, there’s a bit of a trade-off, as having lots and lots of channels means that you can pump lots of water out – and a tyre needs to shift about 6 litres per second in average rainfall at open road speeds – but the problem is that lots of little raised bits wear out more quickly when it’s dry… and nobody wants the hassle of changing tyres every time the weather goes from wet to dry and back again.  The best tyres for driving in the wet are the ones with the directional treads (lots of stacked V shapes) and asymmetrical tyres, although you can’t rotate asymmetrical tyres like you can with the directional ones.  Directional ones look nicer, too!

Tyre pressure is also important to check when the weather goes from hot to cold. This is because air temperature affects tyre pressure, so when the mercury goes down, a tyre that was just right may now be underinflated.  If you remember your high school physics, the hotter a gas gets, the more it expands and the greater the pressure. When the gas cools, then the gas contracts and the pressure decreases.  It’s important to check your tyre pressure at all times, but if the temperature’s changed (or if we’ve had a cold snap), then it pays to check.

The next thing that’s important to deal with is to check the windscreen wipers.  Winter means more rain for everybody except the far north folk, and this means that your wipers are going to see a lot of action. They won’t shift the water and keep your visibility decent if they are in bad condition.  New wiper blades don’t cost the earth and changing them is a job that you can easily do yourself, so there’s no excuses.

While you’re looking at the windscreen and the wipers, this might be a good time to ensure that your windscreen is nice and clean. The angle of the sun will be that little bit lower in the evenings and the mornings, especially the further south you go, so sunstrike and glare can be a problem, especially if your windscreen is filthy. Give it a good clean and top up the fluid for your window wiper fluid.

The next thing is your lights. It’s going to be darker, especially if your state does the Daylight Savings thing (and consider yourself lucky if it doesn’t because it’s a pain). Make sure that all of your lights are working well, including the fog lights. Check that the angles of your headlights on dip and on full beam are angled correctly.

The last thing to get the car mechanically ready for winter is to check the battery.  Your battery is going to get more of a workout, what with the extra demands of heating and lighting.  Top it up with distilled water if needed (tap water is often chlorinated or have other minerals that don’t play nicely with battery acid, so don’t use this).  Check the terminals for corrosion and clean off any greenish bits around the terminals caused by the acid. The best way to do this is with baking soda (which neutralises the acid and will fizz), an old toothbrush and rubber gloves to protect your hands, followed by a good rinse with warm water.  If your battery is getting on the ancient side, then change it. Few things are as miserable as waiting in a freezing cold car on a nasty day for the breakdown guys to come and jump-start your battery.

These steps will help keep your car winter-ready, but don’t forget you and your passengers when preparing your car for winter.  Having the right items stashed away can make a real difference, especially if you have to wait in a parked car for ages for any reason on a nasty cold day, or if some idiot who DIDN’T check their tyre condition skids into your rear end, meaning you have to wait for the breakdown team.  Most modern cars have plenty of useful storage space for all sorts of odds and ends – one particularly useful one is found on the Skoda Superb , which has a special compartment for an umbrella that allows it to drain when wet.  If you own one of these sedans, make the most of this feature!

Here’s the list of things that I’d have in my car to make sure that I can cope, even when the weather swings wildly or gets nasty and cold (on top of other staples like hand sanitiser, snacks and a first aid kit).

  • A chamois leather or microfibre cloth for wiping down the inside of the windscreen. Sometimes, the demister just doesn’t work fast enough or there’s grime on the inside of the windscreen that is causing visibility problems with the lower angle of the sun. Rather than using your sleeve and getting wet (which I have done in emergencies), use a nice soft cloth kept for the purpose.
  • Something to keep the rain off. This could be an umbrella or a raincoat – you can get some nice little compact ones that tuck away in a little bag. This stops you getting all soggy if a downpour decides to descend just as you’re pulling up at the petrol pump and there’s no shelter between your car, the pump and/or where you have to pay (been there, done that).
  • It can take the heaters a while to get going on a cold morning, as they use excess engine heat to heat the cabin. Cold fingers are stiffer and less responsive, so keep your little pinkies warm until the heater sorts its life out.  The obvious place to keep them is… the glovebox.
  • A polar fleece or jumper. It was a nice day when you started out but a southerly buster has roared in.  Or you have to turn the heaters off thanks to that flat battery (or to avoid flattening it).  Keeping half your wardrobe in your car like my husband did when I first met him probably isn’t ideal, but having something to pull on often comes in handy.
  • A blanket or throw. If you have to take kids or passengers who have to wear thinner clothes (formal gowns, dance gear) or who are a bit damp (after sports practice) and cranking up the heater would make things far too hot for you even with a dual-zone climate control, then having a blanket handy for bare knees or off-the-shoulder tops is a nice touch.  A blanket is also more easily washed than your car upholstery in the case of muddy people.  Plus you can use it for impromptu picnics.

Safe and happy driving, no matter what the weather is!

 

Anniversary For Holden Maven Gig.

Imagine being able to trial a job for a month to decide if you liked the conditions, pay and hours, with so many new ways of working through the sharing economy, why shouldn’t this be possible? Holden agreed, so they launched Maven Gig, a car-sharing service that puts power into the hands of the driver.
Since launching a year ago, Maven Gig has achieved significant growth as more Australians turn to freelancing and the sharing economy to generate income and look for flexible ways to get on the road faster. As the personal mobility solution for members of the freelance economy celebrates its first anniversary, Maven Gig has reached a major milestone with its 1000th car hitting the road.
“We’ve seen massive changes to how our customers work and live, and we are embracing the challenge to offer the type of tailored experiences that people want and expect in every facet of their life. Maven Gig is just one way that we are creating new solutions that go beyond just a car, it gives people the power to choose how they want to drive and work,” said Matt Rattray-Wood, General Manager of Maven Australia.
“Freelance work and side hustles are becoming the norm as the public embrace new ways to work, and it’s incredibly exciting that as a car company we have the opportunity to be able to expand into this space. Maven Gig allows members to earn money and enjoy all the benefits of car ownership, all on their own terms.”
Maven Gig gives members access to a wide range of brand new or near new Holden vehicles such as the Trax, Astra hatch and sedan, and the seven seat Captiva. Drivers get unlimited kilometers, 24/7 roadside assistance, comprehensive car insurance and scheduled servicing all included in the rental cost. They can easily swap the vehicles depending on their work or needs.
Matt said the automotive industry was evolving at lightning speed and Holden and Maven intended to be at the forefront of this expanding market.
“With 1000 active members across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, Australians are embracing this service and we are looking at new ways that we can expand our offering.”
“This first year has shown us that there is a strong appetite for our service in Australia, as we look to the future we are diving deeper into the sharing side of the business, exploring apps and what other opportunities there are to provide new mobility solutions for businesses and individuals.”
For more information click here Holden Maven Gig
With thanks to Holden Corporate Communications.

Narva’s L.E.D.s Light The Way Offroad.

Aftermarket lighting supplier Narva introduced the Ultima 215 LED driving lights in 2017. An important feature of the Ultima 215 is that it meets the stringent requirements of CISPR 25 which is part of the ECE Regulation 10 for EMC, a feature that is sadly not evident in many other lamps on the market. By the way, CISPR is Comité International Spécial des Perturbations Radioélectriques or International Special Committee on Radio Interference.

Narva Marketing Manager, Jake Smith, said the company knew the lights would be popular but had not fully anticipated the spectacular market uptake. “Throughout the lamps development we were extremely excited about the lights’ performance and the potential impact they would have on the market. The 215 L.E.D lamps provide the latest technology, outstanding light output and the reliability and toughness Narva lights are known for and these qualities, coupled with a reasonable price point has struck accord with customers. The strength of our research, development and testing meant that the lamp was compliant with CISPR 25 on release, further broadening the appeal of the lamps, especially for emergency services applications where the avoidance of radio interference is critical.”The units have proved popular with the 4WD and travel industries. Former motorbike racer, Daryl Beattie, has turned his hand to running a travel company. One of his vehicles is a tough and sturdy IVECO 4×4 support truck which now sports two pairs of the 215s. Covering the rugged Canning stock route, the Simpson Desert, and routes that go to Cape York, Beattie says of the Narva 215 units: “They produce a staggering white light that’s easy on the eye and fills in the shadows way down the road ahead – they are the best spotties I’ve ever owned.” Daryl added:“After using the Ultima 215s, I can safely say they are the only L.E.D driving lights that I’ll be using on my adventures.”

The Ultima 215 L.E.Ds feature a class-leading hybrid beam pattern that combines volume for off-road use and long range performance for on highway transport applications. Each light is equipped with 33 x 5W (165W) XP-G2 Cree L.E.Ds that develop a pure white output (5700°K) and a penetrating light of 10,500 raw Lumens. As a pair, the lamps provide an impressive 1 Lux of brightness at 900 metres.

As well as using powerful Cree L.E.Ds, the performance is aided by the lights’ highly polished, aluminium, metallised reflectors which feature precisely scalloped parabolas for superior control and performance. The lamps feature die cast aluminium housing, ‘Active Thermal Management System’ allowing the lights to run harder for longer, while also incorporating a nitro breather vent and integrated DT connector, and are fully sealed against water and dust ingress to IP66 and IP67. Other benefits of the lamps include an L.E.D front position light to improve daytime driving visibility, virtually unbreakable polycarbonate lens and see-through lens protector.

Naturally there’s a bespoke mounting harness and a five year warranty to back everything up. Narva is an Australian owned company and products can be found at reputable 4wd and offroad equipment stores.

Chrysler, BMW and Kia Join The Police Fleet

BMW 530d – confirmed as part of the Victoria Police fleet.

I don’t know if they were actually putting bets on it anywhere (although I wouldn’t be surprised) but when Holden and Ford Australia closed their factory doors, the big question for a lot of us who are interested in motoring and car news was what the cops were going to drive for their regular patrol and pursuit cars.  You see, up until the closure of Ford and Holden’s factories on these shores, the cops, being a wing of the government and hence keen on supporting local industry, drove Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores, to the point that wary drivers who like to push the limits a wee bit went on high alert at the mere sight of a white Dunny-Door (aka Commodore) in the distance.  As a matter of fact, the boys and girls in blue were required to drive locally built vehicles.

But the rule that says the cops had to drive locally built vehicles was scrapped.  Then the fun of the guessing game started.  There were all sorts of speculations going on.  Would we get the hot-looking new Kia Stinger on the roads in police livery?  The more obscure Genesis G8 from Korea?  Or something else?

The speculations have now ended, and the police departments of various states have made their choices.  Here’s the list of vehicles that will be a welcome sight if you’ve picked up the phone to report a burglary… or an unwelcome sight in the rear view mirror if it’s got the disco lights going and you know you’ve been driving naughtily.

Chrysler 300 SRT: OK, one of the reasons why they picked this one is possibly because it’s made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia, which still has a humming factory.  The other reasons are because it’s got a feisty 6.4-L naturally aspirated V8 engine (350 kW and 637 Nm) with a very snappy 0–100 sprint time (4.5 seconds).  It’s also a nice, big sedan with lots of room for all the gear that cops need (and space for arrested suspects in the rear where they can’t kick the driver through the back of the seat).  The NSW Police announced in December 2017 that they’d be kitting out a bunch of these (the exact number is unknown but it’s probably got three digits) as patrol and pursuit vehicles.  The downside is that it’s a thirsty brute.

BMW 530d: The Victorian Police confirmed that they’d be getting at least some examples of the diesel-powered German mid-sized sedans for the highway patrol fleet, with 80 confirmed for about now.  While the Beemer is a shade less powerful than the Chrysler (we need a nickname for Chrysler – any suggestions?), it’s possible to get these straight from the factory with the police pack ready installed.  Cops all through Europe drive the 5-series sedan so it’s proved its worth in fighting crime.  In fact, BMW is one of the few manufacturers that actually have vehicles rolling off the factory lines ready to go on patrol duty.  Apparently, they take out some of the luxurious bells and whistles that you get in the everyday civilian versions and replace them with the gadgets that a modern police force needs.  The BMW 530d – at least the civilian version – is powered by a 3-litre V6 turbodiesel delivering 195 kW of power and 620 Nm.

Kia Sorento: South Australia Police confirmed in January that they’d be getting some of these popular Korean SUVs and giving them a try-out.  Apparently, the safety record of the Sorento was one of the more appealing features motivating this choice, as the Sorento came through crash testing with very high marks.  The seven-seater’s got lots of room (great for K-9 teams) although it’s not as peppy as the Chrysler and the Beemer, with the 2.2-litre 4 cylinder turbodiesel delivering 147 kW and 441 Nm.  They say that the brakes are going to get an upgrade for patrol purposes because the cops are pretty hard on the old braking systems.

Kia Stinger: The very hot-looking new sedan has been spotted in the livery of the Queensland Police force.  Apparently, it wasn’t just the nippy 2-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine (182 kW and 353 Nm) that made it attractive: it’s also great braking and cooling systems that passed the rather punishing tests that the Powers That Be put them through (a Ford Mustang from overseas failed these tests and was bumped off the shortlist).  The fact that the Stinger looks great and is a newly unveiled model is also likely to help with police liaison activities with schools and the like.

It’s still early days and some of the vehicles are just being trialled for active duty in various states, and there are a few others that might be used, such as overseas-built Commodores.  However, out of the list of what’s been confirmed, which of these vehicles would be the one that gets your heart racing the most, whether it’s the vehicle that appeals most to your inner small kid who hero-worships the cops, or the one you’d least like to see bearing down on you with the disco lights going?

Nissan X-Trail ST-L Petrol 7 Seater & TL Diesel 5 Seater AWD.

Twin Peaks.
Nissan is in the midst of both a SUV driven renaissance and some healthy sales. The X-Trail is at the heart of this and leads in a updated Qashqai due soon. I spend some time with the (almost) top of the tree X-Trail ST-L seven seater with the petrol engine and X-Trail TL diesel AWD.The seven seater ST-L sits one level below the top of the ST ladder, with the ST-L 4WD at the peak. The TL diesel AWD caps the TL range. There’s a choice of 2.0L or 2.5L petrol engines depending on the trim level in the ST. The 2.5L pumps out 126kW and 226Nm, at 6000 and 4400rpm. There’s 130kW and a very decent 380Nm from the 2.0L diesel, at 3750 and 2000rpm.Transmission for both is a CVT (Continually Variable Transmission) and as usual seems to sap the energy of relatively low torque petrol engines. Nissan’s not alone in this. The diesel is better but suffers from lag from idle. Tank capacity is 60L each. Consumption for the diesel is rated at 6.1L/100 km and the 2.5L petrol at 8.3L/100 km, both for the combined cycle. AWT pretty much matched the petrol figure at 8.5L/100 km. That’s reasonable for both considering the 1534kg and 1664kg tare weights.The petrol’s acceleration is leisurely in comparison to the diesel, even allowing for the diesel’s time to spool up into its torque range. However, the petrol is more linear, being a constant ramp up as opposed to the slightly more “build then bang” of the diesel. And although both are front wheel drive oriented, with the diesel being a switchable to Auto or All Wheel Drive, there’s little to no noticeable torque steer. That’s impressive more so in the diesel given the rev point when max torque takes effect. Once on song the diesel is a cracker and pulls the TL nicely, if with a bit more chatter than expected from modern diesels.The transmission is programmed with seven ratios and is quite effective in engine braking on a downhill run, and occasionally needed a nudge into Sports mode in order to drop the revs and ratio down. However the diesel’s transmission had an odd whine and a feeling of being held back, almost as if the parking brake was engaged.

Ride and handling varied between the two, with the steering in the ST-L feeling overly light, overly assisted. There’s less assistance and a more weighty feeling in the TL diesel. Actual ride comfort was almost identical, with the ST-L feeling just that SLIGHTLY less tied down, with a fraction more float and rebound. The TL diesel’s suspension is built with soft- and off-roading in mind and feels more composed and confident. The undulations found in Sydney’s freeways see both damp down quicker than other SUVs, with far less float and rebound than many other brands observed. Turn in and turning circle are better than Holden’s new Equinox, meaning shopping centre carpark living will be easier. That’s the trade off for the assistance.The exterior bears almost no resemblance to the X-Trail released in the late noughties. It features the new deep V nose cone now seen across the Nissan range, and a flowing, organic, set of sinuous curves from the front to rear. There’s angular headlight clusters, ineffective indicator lamps buried deep into the bottom corners near the grille, beautifully sculpted LED tail lights and a power tail gate in the TL. The ST-L rolls on 225/65/17 rubber encased in simple yet stylish ten spoke “tuning fork” alloys, the TL 225/55/19 with black painted machined alloys.Inside it’s a mixed reception. Overall fit and finish and trim appeal was high but visual appeal is an independent thing. Although of a rounded and mainly ergonomic design, the X-Trail’s interior from the driver’s perspective doesn’t quite feel as fresh as it could. There’s a tight gap between door trim and arm when reaching down to adjust the electric seats, the seven inch main touchscreen is a dull and uninspired design for the audio (DAB only found in ST-L and TL with Bose speakers), the driver’s info screen is a sad looking mauve and dotted affair.However, they are at least easy to read and use. The reverse camera is crisp and in both had a superimposed top-down 360 degree view. There’s a glass roof fitted in the TL. Oh, and those door arms have no grip handle where you’d expect to find them, but have a handle at a difficult fulcrum point. And there’s no wireless charging pad either…The seats themselves were spot on for support and comfort in both TL and ST-L however the rear pews in the ST-L are utterly compromised by the relative lack of useable space and can’t be recommended for anything other than short journeys. There’s heating (no venting) for the front seats in the ST-L and for front and second row in the TL. The TL’s rear space features two removeable cloth covered sections that reveal a plastic tub, one thats more user friendly for dirt work and for shopping.Capacity is 445L for the 7 seater, and the TL has 945L with the second row folded flat. The popular venting for cooling cans and bottles remains, with the centre console featuring room for two items side by side. The dash in the TL is of a more higher quality to look at, especially in the touchscreen surround, and both cars have analogue dials still for the speed and rev counter.Both review cars came fitted with a towbar ($1120 option) and the ST-L with a non-descript plastic nudge-bar (a $1200 option) at the front. The TL had a switch for trailer braking fitted in a cluster near where the driver’s right knee would be to assist in towing braking. The cluster also included an Eco on/off, stability/traction control on/off, and a switch for a heated steering wheel. There’s also a button for the rear powered tail gate.There’s plenty of standard equipment in both and across the range. Auto headlights, powered mirrors, sliding second row seats, Bluetooth streaming are common throughout teh range, with the ST-L and TL receiving Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Lane Departure Warning is standard on the TL and is somewhat sensitive, seeming to go off if you looked at the white or dotted lines.At the time of writing Nissan Australia was offering some sharp driveaway deals; the ST-L seven seater was $40817 for a 2018 model and $51192 for the diesel TL AWD. Naturally, these are subject to change so please check with your local Nissan dealer or enquire via 2017/2018 Nissan X-Trail info
Warranty is the standard three years or one hundred thousand kilometres and there’s a better than others three years roadside assistance package on offer.

At The End Of The Drive.
Nissan is doing something right with the X-Trail judging by the sheer amount seen in the two weeks the model spent at AWT HQ. The pick of the two is the diesel AWD, more so for the better handling feel the chassis exhibited. There’s a better ambience in the TL’s cabin and as an overall driving experience outweighs the ST-L. Those third row seats are compromised due to the sheer size of the X-Trail (4690mm length, 2705mm wheelbase).

If your need is for a dedicated seven seater, there’s other options out there that would be better. If you need a reasonable diesel AWD there’s still plenty of choice. But you’ll also need to consider that the Nissan X-Trail has been rated as the number one selling SUV for 2017. That, on its own, says a lot.

 

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Holden Equinox LTZ-V

As Holden transitions from a builder to an importer, an important part of the plan to do so successfully is to increase and improve its model range. The new Commodore is being rolled out, the new Astra sedan and hatch is in showrooms and the long serving Captiva is slowly being wound back as the new nameplate for the mid sized SUV takes over. Here is the 2018 Holden Equinox LTZ-V.The five model range starts with the LS. With the manual it kicks off the range at $27990 RRP (plus ORC). It’s $2000 for the auto. The LS+ is a $3000 premium over the LS and the first of the LT range at $36990. The LTZ/LTZ-V are $39990 and $46290 respectively. The AWD option on the LTZ is an extra $4300 however it’s standard on the LTZ-V and selected via a button in the front centre console.It’s a choice of two engines available. Both have a turbo and are a 1.5L or 2.0L capacity. A diesel is due later in 2018. The 1.5L will be found in the LS and LS+ with the 2.0L servicing the LT range. The LTs come with a nine speed auto as standard with the LS getting a six speed manual and auto.The auto has no paddle shifters nor side movement for manual changing. The selector in the LTZ-V has a + and – rocker switch on the top of the rather long throw selector. Holden say the Equinox should see the ton in around seven seconds. It’s slick and smooth under most driving situations however was caught out sometimes from start, with hesitant, jerking, unsure decisions initially.

The 2.0L produces 188kW and 353 torques with that peak torque on tap between 2500 – 4500 rpm. The 1.5L isn’t far off with 127kW and 275Nm. The preferred tipple of the 2.0L is 95RON. Combined fuel consumption is quoted as 8.4L/100km from the 59L tank in the LTZ-V. It’s 55L in the others. Economy finished at 9.0L/100 km.The LTZ-V gets plenty of high level tech and comes well loaded with standard equipment. However there’s really not that much to differentiate between it and the other LT models. A full length glass roof is one obvious difference. Driver friendly Advanced Park Assist in the LTZ and V is another. Auto levelling LED headlamps, LED tail lights, remote engine start (all LT models) and chrome roofrails complete that. The roof itself is moved via two tabs and they don’t have the same edge feel to know when you’ve got hold of them.The interior of the LTZ-V is a nice place with heating AND venting for both leather front seats. They look a little slabby but aren’t noticeable in lacking support. Surprisingly, gratefully, they’re there for the rear leather clad seats too with rear seat passengers getting a pair of USB ports, a 12V socket, rear air vents and a 230V socket. It’s of a different configuration than the Aussie 240V sockets so a converter for anything like a portable fridge will be needed.Full colour LCD screens greet the driver and passengers in the LTZ-V and light up in vivid blue. It’s a dash mounted eight inch touchscreen with Holden’s MyLink system on board for apps and entertainment, including a Bose speaker system to complement the DAB audio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. The layout is clean and usage is largely intuitive. The sound itself is as expected from Bose and the sensitivity of the DAB tuner is better than that found in Kia’s Stinger. The upper dash is also Euro influenced, with the sweeping arc that runs from door to door and stitched soft material look and feel. There’s even a notch in the front console for wireless smartphone charging for compatible handsets.

The smaller screen for the driver has info made available via the rubberised arrows on the right hand spoke of the heated steering well. It’s not as easy to navigate as the same found in say a Mitsubishi or Kia but does the job well enough.All four windows are auto down, however just the driver gets auto up, which in a top of the range vehicle is an odd decision. The tail gate is power operated and can be opened and closed from afar via the remote plus there’s a tailgate height dial in the driver’s door near the bottle holder. Foot operating openin is available however is intended for use when your hands are full. There’s 848L or cargo space, a hidden storage locker between the main floor and space saving spare, and increases to 1796L with the rear seats folded.

Safety levels are high across the range with Autonomous Braking from the LS+ upwards, Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning. Following Distance Indicator and Forward Collision Alert with Head Up Alert (flashing red lights) and a vibrating seat cushion that gets input from the parking sensors is there as well. There’s no driver’s kneebag however. It’s this level of tech and features that has a slightly confused feel for AWT about the range structure.Outside it’s a mix of corporate GM and hints at the Astra sedan as being the base sheetmetal, especially at the rear. The noticeable Vee shaped nose and grille structure leads to a bonnet with deep scallops either side, a crease line from the top of the front wheel arch which joins the door handles front and rear to the tail lights. There’s a difference at the rear windowline, much like Ford’s Territory, in that the thicker part of the rear window is the C pillar, where the rear door meets the end of the car, rather than above the tail lights.Ride and handling from the McPherson strut front and four link independent rear is on the slightly taut side. It was never harsh but noticeable in that smaller bumps transmitted more into the cabin. The steering has a weighty feel, with minimal understeer at speed, but somehow the steering translates into a wider than expected turning circle which makes parking and three point turns not as easy as expected. It’ll shift lanes well enough though and do so with minimal fuss.

Being a predominantly front wheel drive car there were also occasional chirps from the front tyres when launched. Corners at speed were despatched with indifference, straight line stability is spot on, and that taut suspension pays for itself when dealing with the varying surfaces of the roads travelled, with dips, wallows, undulations, almost unfelt.The rolling stock is a decent size, with 19 inch alloys wrapped in 235/50 Ventus Prime rubber from Hankook. Although city oriented they did a credible job getting through and over enough rock, sand, gravel, and mud to show some off road cred. With AWD selected, the gear selector moved into L, and Hill Descent mode engaged, the LTZ-V, although not a dedicated off roader, managed some parts of AWT’s test track with only a few moments of will it/won’t it.Warranty is starting to lag, with just three years or 100,000 kilometres on offer. There is however a choice of extended warranty, for 12/24/36 months. There’s also free roadside assist for the first year with another two for free if you get your car serviced by Holden.

At The End Of The Drive.
Holden is still in a period of shaking down what it will deliver to Australian car buyers. With the LT and LS+ to be reviewed separately, the Holden Equinox LTZ-V has made a solid enough impression. It’s the similarity of features in the LT level that may not though have many people opting for the V spec with the glass roof and AWD systems as standard. With over $7000 difference between the two these two features on their own may be seen as unnecessary enough for many to not spend that extra.

There’s no doubt though that the 2.0L engine, the transmission, and the general fit and finish is high enough to wipe away any lingering doubts. Certainly, compared to a Japanese brand that will be also reviewed separately, it’s far ahead of what that car has and in LT form will more than likely have both the features and price point that will meed customer expectations.
Here’s where to find more: 2018 Holden Equinox

Is The Speed Limit Outdated?

It’s been argued that because today’s cars and today’s roads are better and safer than they used to be, the old speed limits ought to be raised to reflect this.  After all, they’ve got a limit of 130 km/h in some bits of Northern Territory (which, incidentally, came in about 10 years ago after having no speed restriction at all – road safety was cited as the reason for introducing limits).  Why shouldn’t the rest of the country get a higher speed limit?

We’ve probably all experienced the situation when road signs seem hopelessly out of date when approaching a corner that has one of those advisory speed limits.  You know the ones – those yellow signs with a number that usually accompany a curvy arrow indicating a bend in the road ahead.  The number is supposed to be the speed at which you can safely go around the corner.  However, in practice, we know that you don’t really actually HAVE to go at 55 km/h around a corner that’s marked 55.  If your tires are in good nick and if there isn’t anything nasty on the roads (oil, water, gravel, ice, etc.) and if your car has reasonably good handling, then you can go around the corner at a somewhat higher speed.  Not the full open road limit, of course – if you kept sailing around the corner at 100 km/h, you probably would come to grief and end up in the ditch.  But you don’t need to slow down to 55 km/h.

A lot of us treat those advisory speed signs as a sort of index giving an idea of how tight the corner coming up, kind of like a stationary rally navigator. A recommendation of 65 or 55 (on the open road where the speed limit’s 100 km/h) means that it’s a reasonably gentle bend, 45 means it’s a bit sharper, and so on all the way down to advisory signs reading 25 or even 15, which means you need to get ready for a hairpin turn and certainly need to slow down to negotiate it (but probably not all the way to 15 km/h).  After all, the camber of the road and the car features like stability control, traction control and the like all help to keep the car on the road.  Cars and roads are designed better these days.

We all know the recommended speeds for corners with advisory signs (known as “design speeds”) are well below the actual speed you can get around said corners comfortably and safely.  Are the open road speeds similarly outdated?

We’ve come a long way since these days – but do we need to go further?

The only trouble with the proposal to increase the open road speed limit to reflect the capabilities of new cars is that not every car on the road is a nice shiny new Mercedes  or Volvo  with all the latest safety features.  There are plenty of people driving beloved old classics, people driving ancient old bangers for budget reasons and those driving cars that aren’t in the category of old bangers but are still over 10 years old and don’t have all the latest whizz-but-not-bang active safety features.  The open road speed limit still applies to these drivers as well as to those with new cars.  And these older cars may not be able to handle the corners the way that newer ones can.

What’s more, some road users aren’t cars.  Trucks, bikes, motorbikes, farm tractors and horses are legitimate road users that one encounters out in the countryside.  You’re not going to find a pushbike, a horse or a farm tractor going anywhere near even the existing road speed limit, and the greater the mismatch between the speed of your car and the (lack of) speed of what’s in front of you leads to greater frustration, increased impatience and an increased likelihood of taking stupid risks.  And we know that although higher speeds are fine when everybody does what they’re supposed to, if things go wrong, they make the consequences worse.

We also need to remember that the cornering design speeds and the like are often designed with heavy trucks (including road trains) in mind.  These need more space and a lower speed to negotiate corners for obvious reasons.  Because these vehicles are very important for trade and the economy, all the government-funded researchers into road design, etc. spend quite a lot of time considering the needs of trucks.

The other thing is that even with a higher speed limit, you still need to slow down to go around a corner.  If they do decide to put up the speed limit, I doubt they’ll go and fix all the advisory signs to reflect the new speed limits for cost reasons.  They probably won’t add new ones either.  (Possibly it’s this cost factor (plus the fact that they could lose out on some speeding fines) that stops The Powers That Be from raising the speed limit.)  This means that if you’re cruising along at 130 km/h and spot a sign telling you that there’s a bend with a rating of 55 (OK, a design speed of 55 km/h), you’ve got less time to slow down to the right speed, which means that you have to brake harder… and that’s probably going to be tougher on your car and/or create a few extra risks.  You do know that you’re supposed to brake on the straight approaching the corner, don’t you?

The other issue is that the speed limit (and the speed at which we all go around corners) is safe when conditions are good, i.e. when the light, road surface, traffic conditions, vehicle conditions and road surface.  If it’s rainy, if it’s dark, if the sun’s at a horrible angle shining right in your eyes, if there’s gravel on the road, if bitumen has bled onto the road surface thanks to a bout of extra hot weather, if there’s ice on the road… it’s not safe to go full speed.  To paraphrase The Stig, if the road surface is shiny for any reason, slow down.

There’s one other argument against raising the speed limit: what I’ll have to call the larrikin factor.  No matter what the speed limit is, having any limit whatsoever will irritate a certain type of driver who doesn’t want to be told what to do.  She/he (I’m going to stick my neck out here and make the generalization that it’s more likely to be “he”) doesn’t want their freedom curtailed at all, and any speed limit – even if it was 150 km/h – feels like an imposition.  There will always be those who push the limits, no matter what those limits are.  It’s a bit like the drinking age or age limits at night clubs: no matter what the age barrier is, we all know that there will be people sneaking in underage… and nobody really wants 13-year-olds in the nightclub, so it’s best to keep the age limit at 18 so the underage sneakers-in are going to be 16 or 17.  The same goes for the speed limit.  Some speeds really are stupid on public roads and places where the unexpected can happen, and if you raise the speed limit, there will still be idiots who go at these ludicrous speeds.  And if you raised the limit to 120 km/h, there would be people who whinged about this being too slow and how it ought to be 140…  Where are you going to stop?

So what’s the answer?  Should we raise the speed limit?  Here’s my personal take on the topic:

  • Definitely raise the speed limit on long straight stretches of open road. I’ve driven along these being good and going at the legal limit, and it felt like crawling.
  • Keep the limit on the rest of the open roads where it is. However, there should be tolerance so the cops don’t jump all over you if you stray 5–10 km/h over the limit.  After all, we don’t all have cruise control, and we are supposed to keep our eyes on the road rather than glued to the speedo.
  • Remember that the speed limit is a limit, not a target. If the conditions don’t permit it, don’t try to go at the full limit.

As for roads around town – well, that’s another story!

Air, Apparent.

A band called “The Hollies” released a song in the mid 1970s called “(All I Need Is)The Air That I Breathe“. We humans breathe air. It’s made up of 78% nitrogen which is an inert (doesn’t react with anything) gas, oxygen at 21%, 0.93% argon and various other gases. CO2 or carbon dioxide is measured to be around 0.04%. It’s the oxygen and CO2 that we carbon based lifeforms worry about the most. But what does it mean when it comes to those other living, breathing things called cars?

Bugger all actually. Cars breathe in air via intakes or through air filters in pre- fuel injected cars via carbies. At the other end comes out CO2 and a smattering of other gases, and that’s the cycle of life. BUT, have you ever tried to push a car with a flat tyre? Yup, air inside comes out and makes rolling a car near nigh impossible. So we fill them with air and away we go.Air, I hear you ask? But that nice man at the service and tyre shop said I should get nitrogen in my tyres, right? Well, in a way, by using air you’ve already got nitrogen. 80%, remember?
But he said it’ll reduce wear and tear on my tyres? Well, no. The biggest cause of wear and tear on tyres is how we drive the cars that use them. If we also don’t check the pressures, so if the tyres are over or under inflated, either of these contributes to wear and tear. When air goes in (80% nitrogen, remember) and the pressures are right, then wear and tear should only be dependent on how you drive.

He also said that nitrogen improves ride quality? Ride quality is dependent on tyre pressure, springs and shocks working properly, road surfaces…you get the picture. So if your air filled tyres are at the right pressure, then ride quality remains the same irrespective of 80 or 100 percent nitrogen.

I’m sensing a pattern here. He also said that by using nitrogen it’ll make the tyre run cooler? Hmm, a toughie….ah…nup. It’s the moisture content of the air, so in fact, if you use dry normal compressed air, it’ll also run cooler., as long as, again, it’s at the correct pressure and the tyre isn’t overloaded.

So, the bottom line, if I’m charged five or ten bucks per tyre to get nitrogen in, I’m just wasting money? In a nitrogen filled nutshell, yep. Don’t waste your money and say no to nitrogen.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Citroen C4 Cactus.

Citroen is known for smart engineering, clever engineering, and its famed quirkiness. The three come together with the C4 Cactus and it’s a car with something out of the ordinary. The smooth, organic, rounded, Cactus features Airbumps. Simple in concept and execution, they’re poly-urethane pockets filled with air. Made from TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) grade Elastollan AC 55D10 HPM (High Performance Material) the bumps are intended to give extra protection in close quarter situations such as carparks.The review car was badged OneTone, signifying one all-over shade and in this case, all white. There’s another trim level called Exclusive. Pricing varies more between manual and auto than the two trim levels available. The manual and auto Exclusive are $30592 and $33373 driveaway. The OneTone manual and auto are $31107 and $33888 respectively.Motorvation is provided by the PSA Group’s 1.2L petrol engine. Peak power is 81kW. Peak torque is a surprisingly good, for the size of the engine, 205Nm. That comes in at 1500rpm and is courtesy of a low boost turbo. The auto is the PSA Group’s EAT6 transmission. It’s a torque converter style with a bit of dual clutch auto feel. Under way it’s smooth enough but was sometimes (thankfully rarely) too readily caught in the wrong cog, sending vibrations through the Cactus body as it struggled with revs and torque not being available. From standstill it engages readily when in manual mode, hesitates slightly in auto, and will swap gear swiftly and mostly smoothly, as mentioned. While it’s underway, the engine puts out that familiar three cylinder warble. It’s not unpleasant but can override conversation levels.There’s two transmissions available for the Cactus: a six speed auto as found in the review car or five speed manual. Fuel tank size is fifty litres and Citroen quotes a combined fuel economy of 5.1L/100km for the auto, 4.7L/100km for the manual. A Sports mode is available at the push of a console mounted button. Top speed is quoted as 188km/h with the zero to one hundred time quoted as 10.7 seconds for the auto but a considerably quicker 9.3 seconds for the manual. This is explained by a 105kg weight difference. The manual tips the scales at 1020kg dry, the auto at 1125kg.It’s compact too, featuring an overall length of just 4157mm. The rear houses a handy 358L cargo bay that increases to 1170L when the rear seats fold. The cloth wrapped seats themselves are comfy enough but lack suitable side support for the front row. The rear seats are slightly slabby but due to the width (1729mm overall) there’s only room for two which is comfortable enough.
Leg room at the front is superb and rear leg room is also quite good. Headroom should pose no problem unless you’re two metres plus in height.The inside has a theme. It’s something along the lines of a suitcase, with the door handles rounded and with a leather like material and the glovebox has two latches, one of which opens the glovebox, and look like those found on a suitcase. The top of the glovebox has bumps that mirror the bumps outside and the door trims are embossed with something similar. There’s power window switches for the front only and they’re not auto Up/Down. The rear windows are popout in nature, with a lever mechanism, but don’t go down at all. The dash colour is a pink hued one called Habana over fish scaled plastic, contrasting with the black plastic abutting the windscreen and the rest of the interior trim.A slightly fiddly seven inch touchscreen houses all of the controls for audio, driver settings, aircon, car information, and the like. Fiddly in that sometimes more than one press or touch is required to access something like the audio screen, or the aircon screen, which means less concentration on driving. The driver gets a sci-fi inspired display screen, with 1970s look-a-like LCD blocks It’s shows speed and fuel but no revs. Consumption and trip meters are available via the touchscreen but revs aren’t…The OneTone Cactus is unremarkable in appearance bar the colour coded bumps on the doors and front & rear. The review car was Pearlescent White with matt white (Dune) for the plastic coverings. There are strip LED driving lights above the main headlights ala Jeep Cherokee/Hyundai Kona yet somehow it manages to look better than both, possibly due to the ovoid exterior design. That same Elastollan material also coats sections of both front and rear bumpers. Up top, there’s full length roof rails. The multi-coloured Cactus looks more striking with the contrasts in colours, such as a red and black mix.Safety levels are good but not great, with Hill Start Assist, reverse camera and six airbags but there’s no kneebag for the driver. Nor are there Blind Spot alerts, Cross Traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control or autonomous braking. There is something unique, though, about the passenger airbag. It’s roof mounted, coming down like a larger pillow.

On road, the suspension provides mostly smooth but sometimes unsettled ride quality. The Cactus is all too easily sent momentarily sideways, even over those dreaded shopping centre speedbumps. It’s also floaty, rather than wafty, wallowing where it should be up/down/stop. This isn’t altogether a bad thing as it does offer a cossetting ride, with no rear perception of harshness in any way. The diamond cut and painted 17 inch alloys are shod with eco-friendly Goodyear EfficientGrip rubber at 205/50 and they do hold on tightly, exhibiting mild understeer and quietly at that.Brakes are reasonable in hauling down the Cactus and pedal feel is nothing less than adequate. The steering is the same; it’s sometimes natural, sometimes artificial, but never less than adequate in feedback. Warranty is three years or 100,000 kilometres and in early 2018 Citroen Australia were offering free servicing for three years on plate clearance models.

Here is where you can find more information: 2018 Citroen C4 Cactus

At The End Of The Drive.
Citroen’s C4 Cactus is a mixed bag. It is a good looker in a way, it’s roomy enough, will drive well enough for most, but is hampered by a somewhat fiddly ride and doesn’t really offer anything out of the ordinary apart from looks and that French quirkiness.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Peugeot 2008 Allure

Peugeot continues to build upon its century plus of automotive building with a update to its smaller SUV, the 2008 series. It’s available in Australia in three trim levels; Active, Allure, and GT Line. I spend three weeks with the mid range Allure.

There’s some good pricing on the range too. The Active starts at a list price of $25490 for a final driveaway price of $29230. The Allure slots in neatly at $32865 driveaway and the GT Line rounds out at $35420 driveaway. These prices are on 2017 plated models. (Contact Private Fleet to see what we can do for you…)It’s not a big ‘un, the 2008. At 4159mm in length it’s right in there with cars such as the Audi Q2 or Holden Trax. Still, Peugeot squeeze in a 2158mm wheelbase, meaning leg room front and rear is at least adequate for most. With an overall (including mirrors) width of 2004mm there’s hip and shoulder room of of over 1300mm. At the rear the cargo space is roomy enough at 410L (measured to the window line) and goes up to 917L with the same measurement.Motorvation is courtesy of an award winning turbocharged three cylinder petrol engine with Euro 6 emissions compliance. It’s a miserly 1.2L in capacity and is just as miserly in its consumption of dinosaur juice. Peugeot says the combined cycle is 4.8L per 100 km from the 50L tank. Although it’s mated to a six speed dual clutch auto and a drive mode system for soft roading, it’s unlikely to see such environments so the quoted 6.0L/100km is more reasonable. We finished on 7.2L/100km. There’s Start/Stop and it’s virtually seamless in re-engaging from Stop mode.Given its size you’d be forgiven for thinking it would struggle moving the (tare weight) 1188kg 2008 around. Not so, comparatively. There’s a reasonable 81 kilowatts on board, but there’s a very handy 205 torques on tap at 1500 rpm. Even though Peugeot quotes a plus ten second time to 100 km/h it doesn’t feel as if it struggles to do so. Although the DCT suffers from the same gremlins just about every DCT does, being that seemingly yawning chasm between selecting Drive and forward motion, it’s otherwise near faultless, with crisp changes, quiet changes, and allows that rorty three cylinder to let you know it’s enjoying life.It’s also responsive enough, once under way, with kick-down and acceleration going hand in hand. Out on the flat it’ll slide into D5 easily enough and seems geared well enough to be content there. D6 was seen once the computer had declared speed and engines revs were suitable. It will then cruise along nicely and with no stress. Naturally there’s cruise control but if you’re a driver you’ll enjoy the interaction between foot, throttle, foot, brake as the 2008 reaches out and reminds you that fun is part of its nature.Ride quality from the Goodyear Vector 205/50/17 directional tread rubber is pretty good although the front will squeal with protest as it’s pushed hard into turns. The suspension seems tuned more for initial hardness before softening up. and it’s the upper rate that has body movement from the Allure. It can be jittery on rutted and unsettled tarmac and does have a propensity to skip sideways if even in a slight turn. It’ll pull down from undulations with just the slightest extra rebound, will allow a slow run over a shopping centre speed bump well enough yet will bump hard over the tarmac style ones.

Quality inside the 2008 was high. The plastics have a good look and feel, from the dash to the door trims with a carbon fibre and heat retaining alloy mix, from the seven inch touchscreen layout to the trim surrounding that and to the leather bound paddle shaped parking brake. The indicator stalk is on the left and pressing the button at the end engages voice activation. Oddly, though, it’s a key start, not remote. Cruise control is that seemingly peculiar to Euro brands separate stalk off the steering column and that also includes a speed limit alert. There’s a downside and that’s the tinny thunk as the doors are closed.The slightly chunky yet easy to hold tiller is typical Peugeot in that it sits below the binnacle, which itself is LED framed, shining a delightful blue. The dials themselves are clean and easy to read, and there’s a monochrome screen in the middle with speed, distance and the like. Seats are (optional at $2200) leather and heated only; again, that’s a huge oversight in the Australian market, especially with the car being tested through some of the hottest weather seen in some time. But, if it makes any difference, there’s two 12V sockets. And the Allure came with alloy door scuffs even though the brochure says they’re GT Line only. An optional full length glass roof was fitted and you can option the Peugeot LED Track that’s embedded in the laser cut headlining.Exterior design is a highlight with Peugeot expanding the elements that made the previous version a handsome looker. The taillights have a more defined claw motif, especially at night thanks to LEDs. The headlights with LED running lights bracket a more upright and enhanced grille, with the headlights gaining the shark fin protrusion as well. Front fog lights will pivot at night as well. The overall presence is smooth, almost organic, in appeal. Part of that comes from the alloy look full length roof rails and roof lid spoiler balanced by the black body mouldings. The Platinum Grey metallic paint is a $590 option.The test car came fitted with a full length glass roof (a $1000 option), and some decent safety tech including Active City Brake, Peugeot’s term for autonomous braking. Emergency hazard light activation under heavy braking is on board, the Allure and GT Line get City Park which is self parking and parking entry/exit assistance, six airbags (no driver’s kneebag) and hill start brake assist.

At The End Of The Drive.
Peugeot’s reinvention of its ranges of cars is paying off. The 2008 is extraordinary fun, even allowing for the delay in clutch bite inside the DCT. Once it’s hooked up, it goes and goes well, and does so with the appeal of elegance as seen from outside. It’s a smooth and flowing design that matches the chic interior.
Peugeot Australia has your info right here: 2018 Peugeot 2008 range