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Mercedes-Benz X-Class For The Tradies Is Here.

Along with German sibling Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz now offers a four door utility vehicle. Called the X-Class it’s got a starting price of $45,490 plus on roads. With an effective trickle style media campaign underway there’s already over 8000 registrations of interest in their new vehicle. As is to be expected, M-B will offer an almost bewildering range of variants. There’s will be a choice of two models called the X 220d and X250d, two diesel engines offering either 120kW or 140kW, a six speed manual for each or a seven speed auto for the 250d.
The 220d will be given either a rear wheel or all wheel drive system, with the 250d coming in AWD only. A high output V6 will be available by the end of 2018, with 190kW and 550Nm of torque.
There will be three trim levels: Pure, Progressive, and Power, designed to appeal to three distinct lifestyles and working groups. Underneath will be the tried and true, and fettled for Australian roads, double wishbone front and multi-link rears, with both ends riding on coil springs. This aims to provide a harmonious balance of safety with any load and a comfortable ride.

Safety won’t be an issue with the X-Class receiving a five star ANCAP rating thanks to seven airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Keeping Assist, plus a 360 degree camera in the Power and optionable on the Progressive.It’ll have a significant on-road presence with a 5340mm length, 1920mm width and 1829mm height. The front end features a stand-out Mercedes-Benz emblem inside a twin louvre grille, a M-B family look to the lower front bar, and a powerful stance at the rear.The tray will hold a standard Australian spec pallet and towing of up to 3500 kilograms is factored in. Whilst working hard it’ll cosset driver and passengers in three trim levels inside including two leather and two roof lining colours.The Pure will be aimed at the working driver and will roll on 17 inch steel wheels. They’ll be able to access media via a seven inch touchscreen. The Progressive driver has 17 inch alloys, colour coded bumpers, heat insulating glass in the windscreen, and Garmin integrated navigation through the seven inch touchscreen.Power drivers will have their new ute fitted with 18 inch alloys, man made leather interior, parking assist via M-B’s PARKTRONIC system, and an eight speaker digital audio system.
A range of option packs will be available across the range for the 2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

https://www.facebook.com/MercedesBenzVansAustralia/ and @mercedesbenzvans_au on Instagram can be followed for more information as well as contact Mercedes-Benz dealerships.

Lamborghini Huracán Performante Goes Topless.

$532,635 Australian dollars, including taxes, excluding on the road costs. That how much the new Huracan Performante will cost. The what?
Here’s what it is.The Performante Syder will see a 0-100 km/h time of just 3.1 seconds thanks to its 5.2 l V10 naturally-aspirated engine. A permanent all wheel drive system helps it go further, with 0-200 km/h (0-124 mph) in 9.3 seconds A top speed of 325 km/h matches its coupé stablemate. Braking from 100-0 km/h is mastered in 31.5 m.

Like the Performante coupé, the Spyder outputs 640 hp (470 kW) at 8,000 rpm, producing 600 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm, and with more than 70% of torque already available at 1,000 rpm. Stefano Domenicali, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Automobili Lamborghini says: ““The Huracán Performante Spyder takes the zenith of Huracán developments, combined with the enhanced emotion of driving a convertible.”With a total dry weight of just 1,507 kg, the Spyder returns a weight-to-power ratio of 2.35 kg/hp, with weight distribution front/rear of 43/57%. Domenicali also said: “The Huracán Performante already provides the most heightened feedback and emotion from road and track, and the Huracán Performante Spyder puts the driver even closer to asphalt and air, as well as the unique resonance of a naturally-aspirated Lamborghini engine.”

2019 Lamborghini Urus Unveiled For Australia.

Lamborghini‘s long awaited SSUV or Super Sport Utility Vehicle, the Urus, was unveiled to media in Sydney’s Barangaroo district today (March 13, 2018). For the Australian market it will be priced from $390,000 (with GST and LCT included) plus on road costs. Weighing less than 2250kg, it will boast a V8 of 4.0L capacity, twin turbos which will give the engine 478kW and 850Nm of peak torque at 2250rpm, all wheel steer, and should see the ton in 3.6 seconds on its way to a top speed of 305 km/h.Lamborghini video 1 Lamborghini video 2

As expected, it’s a technological showcase. The DOHC engine features cylinder deactivation, twin scroll turbos, and is bolted to an eight speed automatic transmission. A all wheel drive system is capable of splittling torque from up to 70% to the front wheels to 87% to the back wheels. In normal driving it’s 40/60 front to rear. Torque vectoring is built in and works with the selectable driving modes to apportion torque where and as needed. Operated via a smart looking “tamburo” selector switch, there’s Strada, Terra (off-road), Neve (snow), Sabbia (sand), Sport, and Corsa.Depending on which driving mode is selected, the vectoring system on the 3003mm wheelbase will reduce or add grip, provide more or less oversteer as required, and cpmbines with the rear wheel steering system to provide sporting or agile driving experiences. The rear itself will move at + or – three degrees and will have all four wheels pointing in the same or opposite directions (in-phase or counter-phase) depending on speed.Lamborghini’s DNA shines through in smaller uet as important details, such as the exhaust note. Again it’s speed and drive mode dependent. In Strada it’s quiet, almost a background thrum. In Corsa it’ll be a more sonorous and guttural note emitted through the bespoke outlet system.The “tamburo” (or drum) selector dial allows a progressive move through the various modes and cycles through top to bottom before returning to the top as the selector lever is moved. It’s joined with the air suspension system to have each mode lift or lower the ride height to suit. It’s an adjustable system that can be left in Anima or automatic mode. Or the driver can select Ego to adjust manually.Underneath its angular, aerodynamically tuned, exterior is a mix of steel and aluminuim for the chassis. The cross members are light weight, as are the door frames, plus the front axle is bolted to an aluminuim subframe. The rear is a mix of aluminuim and steel in a cell structure, with all four corners rolling on 21 to 23 inch forged aluminuim with a choice of season suiting tyres. Inside are Carbon Ceramic brakes at 440 x 40 mm at the front, and 370 x 30 mm at the rear.The interior is beautifully appointed and includes a pair of super clear touchscreens, a four channel eight speaker sound system, with a 1700 watt B&O system and 21 speakers an option, aluminuim framed seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth media streaming, and a DVD player. A DAB tuner and TV tuner are optional extras.Exterior design reflects the DNA of Lamborghini. It has short overhangs, a muscular stance, broad rear haunches, and a roof line that slides down into the LED tail lights. Up front is a deep set spoiler with air-inlets that almost but not quite dominate the view. Also up front is that powerplant, the first front engined Lamborghini for quite some time. From above, the lines draw the eye towards the somewhat piched waistline before spreading out to highlight the tail lights and and rear panels.Orders for the Lamborghini Urus are being taken now for deliveries in late 2018 or early 2019.

With thanks to Origin Agency and Lamborghini Australia.

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

Just What Is On That Alfa Romeo Logo?

Automotive manufacturers’ logos come in a range of styles, ranging from the simple (e.g. the stylized signature of the founder for Ford or the three diamonds of Mitsubishi  – which means something like “three diamonds” in Japanese) through to more complicated designs (think of the helmet and lion of HSV, the double dragon of Ssangyong or the Pleiades constellation of Subaru). One of the more complicated designs that is deliberately reminiscent – and in fact borrows from – the old heraldic logos is that of Alfa Romeo .

Alfa Romeo has been making classy cars for over 100 years now (the company was founded in 1910) and the logo has only changed subtly over the years (not counting the badges on models from the World War 2, era, which have minimal colour thanks to wartime restrictions). Various small elements and the word “Milano” have come and gone, but the fundamental logo has remained the same. You know the one: the circle with a design on both halves.

On the left-hand half, you have a red cross on a white field, also known as an English cross or even St George’s cross. It’s also known as the emblem of the Crusaders.  You know the ones: the guys that got to be the heroes in most adventure stories set in the Middle Ages, starting from the Middle Ages themselves until a couple of decades ago.  It’s also the official flag of Milan, which used to be the capital of Lombardy, an independent nation in its own right. In fact, Milan had the red cross on a white field long before the Crusades, as this was the symbol of the patron saint of Milan, St Ambrose (who was knocking around in the fourth century, long before some idiot decided that the Crusades were a good idea).

On the other half you have… what the heck?  At first glance, it looks like a crowned snake with what is either a red triple-forked tongue or dragonish flames coming out of its mouth. On closer inspection, what’s in the snake’s mouth turns out to be human torso with arms raised. It looks as though the snake is eating that person. It’s more obvious in the post-2015 logo in the USA, which has been changed to white (green and white and a Slytherin serpent – how very Harry Potter). What is that all about?  Dragons: fair enough; Ssangyong has them and they fall into the “cool dangerous animal” category that lots of car manufacturers and brand designers love to draw on. But why would you have a logo that shows someone being swallowed by a snake or a dragon?

The arms of the House of Visconti.

Alfa Romeo provides a brief explanation: this device, along with the red cross, was part of the coat of arms for the Duchy of Milan (Alfa Romeo was founded in Milan, in case you were wondering what the obsession with Milan was).  This was the symbol of the House of Visconti, although the Visconti coat of arms has a blue and white crowned serpent and a flesh-coloured bloke in its mouth. This is presented along with the motto “Vipereos mores non violabo”, which can be roughly translated as “I will not violate the traditions of the serpent”, which really does sound like something JK Rowling made up. The serpent in question is known as the “biscione” and the human is described as either a child or (the even less PC version) a Saracen or Moor. The Saracens and Moors were the enemies of the House of Visconti at the time and they were practically sitting on the back doorstep of Milan, so the device acted as a kind of warning label: mess with us and we’ll devour you.  A more colourful legend tells of one of the Visconti ancestors killing a man-eating snake/dragon, which kind of goes with the St George’s cross – that’s St George as in the guy who killed the dragon and rescued the princess (and was, ironically, Turkish).

 

Another explanation that has been reported out there (possibly by Alfa Romeo themselves) is that the person is coming out of the snake rather than going in, kind of like Jonah coming out of the belly of the whale or something similar – all very Joseph Campbell and the Hero With A Thousand Faces and that sort of thing, where the Hero on his Journey goes into then returns from the underworld or the belly of the beast.  Explanations of this type tend to use words like “ouroboros” and “chthonic” and then start to ramble on about various serpent figures in mythologies from around the world. What this has to do with cars or with the ancient Duchy of Milan, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s because the experience of driving an Italian sports car makes you feel rejuvenated and reborn?  Or maybe it’s simply the very understandable wish to disassociate this rather prestigious line of vehicles from the unpleasant combination of Crusader cross and something eating a Saracen (incidentally, the website for Alfa Romeo Middle East conspicuously lacks the coat of arms… I wonder why!)

Alfa Romeo also uses a green four-leafed clover on a white field, known as the quadrifoglio, which means “four-leafed clover”. This means exactly what you think it does: it’s a good luck charm and was adopted in the 1920s when an Alfa racing driver wanted to overcome his run of bad luck.  The green and white livery and the serpentine associations might look like they inspired the Slytherin logo but this is probably coincidence: JK Rowling doesn’t drive a car.

For myself, I think I’m going to just enjoy the fact that a logo that was once carried by a knight mounted on horseback is now on the modern equivalent of a speedy warhorse, thanks to the Milanese origins of Alfa Romeo – and I’ll also enjoy the fantasy tale about the dragon-slayer. I’ll also enjoy getting behind the wheel of an Alfa when I get the chance.

Car Review: 2018 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design

It’s a nice thing, as an independent writer, to get a vehicle that has visual appeal and plenty of chops underneath. It’s even better when that car is an award winner. The 2018 spec Volvo XC60, starting at a pinch under $60K, is definitely one of those and with a range of trim levels and engines to choose from, there’s one for everyone. I spend a Christmas week with the 2018 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design.Visually it’s almost identical to its slightly older and slightly larger sibling, the XC90. There’s the LED headlights, the “Thor’s Hammer” indicator and LED driving light strip, and a visual cue from the S90 sedan with the new horizontal add-ons for the LED tail lights. Painted in a gorgeous metallic blue, the curves are highlighted and emphasise the new 21 inch diameter alloys and Pirelli rubber.It’s an imposing vehicle to look at. The 1900+ kilo machine is 4688mm in length, an astounding 1902mm in width, and stands 1658mm tall. Yet it’s as light and nimble, via the leather clad steering wheel, as a sports car, with beautiful feedback and effortless in its movement. The R-Design tested came fitted with airbag suspension and some options as well, with the ride and handling almost without fault.The XC60 was taken on a run to the NSW South Coast and was unflustered in its dealing with the varying tarmac conditions. For the most part. Some irregularities had the stiffer springs not dealing with them and the rear would skip sideways. The rear suspension has a name guaranteed to test anyone’s tongue: integral link with transverse composite leaf. The front is much easier: double wishbone transverse link. In layman’s terms they translate to “it’s a bloody good setup and it works”.The R-Design comes with a choice of diesel, a turbocharged or turbo/supercharged engine 2.0L petrol donk (T5 and T6) or a hybrid package. The Euro V6 emissions compliant T6 has pumps out a healthy 235kW via the all wheel drive system and a very usable 400 torques between 2200 and 5400 rpm. The eight speed Adaptive Geartronic auto defies logic in its unbelievably silky smoothness, imperceptible changes, and comes with drive modes including Comfort and Dynamic.It also comes with a 71 litre fuel tank, a clever fuel usage sensor that shows the varying range depending on thirst, and here’s the black spot for the XC60. The test car never dipped below 10.0 litres consumed per 100 kilometres. This included a couple of light throttle, flat road, gentle acceleration, freeway runs.The manufacturer’s price for the R-Design is $76990. The review vehicle was fitted with a number of options and the final figure was $87180. There’s the Lifestyle Pack at $2500 with heating for the multi-adjustable leather seats (which also had cooling, yay!), a Panoramic glass sunroof and tinted rear windows. The air suspension is an option and it’s worth the $2490 simply to watch the car settle on its haunches every time you exit. An extra $350 sees the front seat power cushion extensions, with interior package of leather and aforementioned ventilation another $2950. Metallic paint is $1900.The centre-piece of the interior is the nine inch touchscreen that houses driving aids, audio and climate control, apps, display settings, and is not initially intuitive but becomes so with practice. It’s also a highly reflective coated unit that is fantastic at holding fingerprints. It’s a three screen side-swipe that shows the choice of audio including DAB which, via the $4500 optional B&W speakers sounded spot on. The whole navigation interface is voice controlled as well. The glovebox is cooled and the climate control is a four zone capable unit. The driver has a full colour 12.3 inch LCD display with the display defaulting to a map between the speed and rev counter dials. The touchscreen has a tab to adjust the dial looks including power, Glass, and Chrome.Volvo’s attention to the little things is also as admirable. There’s the knurled finish to the drive selectior know, the same finish on the Start/Stop dial in the console, which requires a simple turn to the right to start or stop. Even the windscreen wipers have an identifying feature, with a gentle mist sprayed right out of the blade mounts which allows a closer and more efficient pattern to be utilised.There’s a swag of safety aids as standard, including Blind Spot Alert, Cross Traffic Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition, a 360 degree camera setup, Adaptive Cruise Control, Pilot Assist which is a semi-autonomous driver system, Park Assist Pilot, Run-Off Road Mitigation and Lane Keeping Assist and it’s here some tweaking is needed. Irrespective of velocity the assistance is equal in force meaning a slow speed assist feels more like wrenching the tiller from the driver’s hands. There’s Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control and a complete suite of airbags including driver’s knee.The tail gate is power operated and is fitted with the under bumper foot sensor. This proved somewhat fiddly to use, even after a few attempts, but when it opens the rear door it allows access to 505 litres worth of cargo space, rear 12V socket, and space saving spare tyre. Rear seat passengers don’t suffer in room either, with 965mm leg room, 988mm head room, and 1408mm hip room.

It’s on the road when the ability of the T6 R-Design engine package shows its mettle. At the legal freeway limit the eight ratios see around 1700 rpm, meaning it’s not far from peak torque. Sink the slipper and the needle swings around instantly, the numbers change rapidly, and velocity is illegal very easily. Because of the superb sound insulation the XC60 has, there’s no real aural sense of what’s happening up front or outside and it’s too easy to be caught above the rated local limit, meaning the driver really needs to be aware of the numbers on screen.But if a car is going to offer such usable performance it’ll also need some useable stoppers. The XC60 delivers with brakes that can be judged to a nanometer in what they’re doing in relation to foot pressure. Nor does the R-Design’s ride quality suffer from the Pirelli P-Zero 255/40/21 tyres. It’d be fair to expect some harshness in the ride from such large tyres and a small profile, yet the suspension engineers have worked wonders in dialing in just the right amount of give for all but the most unsettled of tarmac surfaces.Settling into a freeway rhythm was easy in the R-Design. Loping along, enjoying either the DAB sounds or the music via connected smartphone, comfortable in the powered seats and being breathed upon by the climate control aircon, it’s an indisputably delightful place to be. Allowing for stops to allow rest breaks, exiting the XC60 after the five hundred kilometres or so drive had only the barest hint of fatigue settling in.

At The End Of the Drive.
drive.com.au have awarded the XC60 their Best SUV under $80,000 and it’s obvious to see why. Although adding some of the options add to the final price, the underlying ability of the 2018 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design, is more than able and competent. Supplemented by an excellent safety package, an immensely flexible driveline, some high tech to use, and a beautiful exterior, the only real quibble with the car provided was the thirst.

Here is where you can configure your new XC60: 2018 Volvo XC60 information

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Audi S5

It’s always a pleasure to have a luxury car in the driveway. It’s always a pleasure to have a sports oriented car in the driveaway. When the two mix, it’s double the pleasure. The 2018 Audi S5, with “Quattro” all wheel drive and turbo V6 packed into a lithe and sinuous body, takes that a notch or two further. With a list price of $96,200 and a final drive-away figure of $116,500, does the S5 offer luxury supercar performance at a reasonable price?The keys to the S5 are the 3.0 litre V6, eight speed tiptronic which has been updated from the previously available seven speed, and all wheel drive. Peak power is 260 kilowatts between 5400 and 6400 rpm and maximum torque of 500 Nm on tap at a billiard table flat 1370 – 4500 rev band. Helped by 255/35/19 rubber from Continental and a dry weight of 1690 kilos it’s good enough to see a 0 – 100 kph time of 4.5 seconds, with a seat of the pants feeling that’s a conservative figure. Economy will vary depending on how heavy the right foot is employed. Audi quotes 7.5L/100 km of 98RON for the combined cycle and an average of just 10.0L/100 km for the urban cycle. A worst of over 15.0L/100 km was seen and that was when testing acceleration times.It doesn’t hurt that the S5’s aerodynamics add to the rapidity of the S5. At just 0.25cD it’s one of the slipperier cars of its type. Part of this comes from a redesign to the front, with a lower and more pedestrian friendly nose that houses the signature Audi Singleframe grille. Smooth sine wave lines join the LED headlight front via the two door coupe’s subtly larger flanks to the short tail that gives up a deep if not vertically capacious 455 litres. Fold the rear seats and that’s up to 829 litres. Step inside and there’s a combination of high tech with the Heads Up Display,  12.3 inch TFT “Virtual Cockpit” dash display and variable drive modes against a stunning business club feel thanks to the sumptuously appointed diamond quilted leather seats. That’s front and rear, with the back seat occupants not forgotten in the search for comfort as Audi provides a three zone climate control system.There’s an impressively modern feel and look to the plastics, with a mostly ergonomic approach to the layout of the dash and console mounted buttons and switches. There’s a broad swathe of venting to the view of the front seat passengers which looks slightly unusual given the accepted 2 + 2 vent look everywhere else.Although the S5 is a decent 4692mm in length and has a longish 2765mm wheelbase, interior room isn’t as spacious as one would suspect. Yes, you have to duck your head to get in, and yes, rear seat leg room and head room is tight for an Oompaloompa, you can almost forgive that given the outright driveability and the comfort levels the S5 provides.The LCD screen in front of the driver is the latest word in how to do something pretty damned well. With a changeable look that gives a number of different display looks, such as full screen map, speedo and rev counter along with long and short term driving stats, it’s intuitive and easy on the eye. What isn’t is Audi’s decision to stay with a centre dash mounted screen that looks plugged into a cut-out slot. Nor does the DAB/FM/AM display show anything other than the station you’re listening to with RDS (Radio Data Service) info seemingly locked into a separate screen.Road manners come as no surprise in being benign when driven gently, tenacious when driven moderately, and superb at maximum attack. The drive modes, being Comfort, Dynamic, Individual, either sharpen or soften chassis and throttle response and, unusually, it really dos work. Too often (you hear us, Kia and Hyundai?) these electronic changes are added and seem to add nought. In the case of the Audi S5, m’lud, they do.The transmission really does offer quicker changes and using the paddle shifts there’s a blip blip blip on upshifts. Downshifts are fractionally slower…fractionally. It’s a hugely enjoyable experience and using Dynamic is great for quiet roads or track days, Comfort for cruising, and really that’s all you need. There’s also the 1587mm/1568mm front and rear track to aid in high speed and around town stability plus a tight turning circle (11.4 metres) with the steering itself a natural feeling setup lock to lock. Recalibrated suspension components in the front lend their aid to the ride quality too. The S5 brakes are just what you need and expect from the package, with a sensitive pedal telling the driver just how much retardation is happening at any given time.

On board are six airbags with the S5 missing a driver’s knee ‘bag, accident pre-sensing which did throw up some false positives, Blind Spot Warning, pre-tensioning seatbelts (which caught the Mrs unawares more than once), a pedestrian friendly “Active Bonnet” and the usual driver aids. There’s also autonomous braking on board.

To back up the S5 should anything go awry is a three year road side assistance program, three year unlimited kilometre warranty with twelve year anti-corrosion, and the option of extended warranty as well.

At The End Of The Drive.
The question was: “…does the S5 offer luxury supercar performance at a reasonable price?” Quite simply that answer is yes. 2018 Audi A5/S5 is the place to go to enquire further.

Car Of The Year Awards Surprise From News Corp.

As we head towards the end of 2017 the awards season for cars gets under way and some of Australia’s biggest media groups roll out their list of contenders for the gongs in various categories. News Corporation, the company behind CarsGuide, has released their list of finalists for their COTY awards and there’s no surprises in that the two Korean brands feature two of the more newsworthy cars of recent weeks. It’s no surprise that no Australian built cars feature but it is a surprise that there’s just two European brands in the mix…bear in mind that this is the view of this news group and it’s worth looking out for the lists from the other news groups.From Korea comes the monster killing Hyundai i30 with the comments of: Loads of standard equipment, confident roadholding and a five-year warranty. There’s also the Kia Picanto, the good looking small hatch with: value-for-money hatchback that’s well equipped and suited to city living. Kia also lobs out the polarising (to Holden and Ford fans) Stinger: Old-school, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan with room for five and a twin-turbo V6.

Audi is one of the two European entries, with News Corp choosing the new Q5: German precision engineering matched to a frugal diesel engine and cutting edge safety. Japan is the country of  origin for the rest of the finalists and it’s an eclectic mix, starting with Suzuki‘s Swift, a fun and funky and frugal little car with New Corp saying: Fun to drive turbo three-cylinder with strong safety package. Next up is Subaru‘s resurgent Impreza, recently tested by Private Fleet’s Dave: Quality cabin and crash-avoidance tech usually reserved for luxury cars.The Japanese onslaught continues with Honda‘s completely revamped Integra range including the fire snorting Type R: Explosive hot hatch with in-your-face styling and a punchy turbo engine. Mazda is in there as well with their mid range CX5: Well priced, stylish cabin design and surprisingly agile for a softroader. Honda throws in another SUV with the CR-V: Spacious, versatile interior, quality finishes and hi-tech feel. Skoda‘s brilliant new Kodiaq is the other European sourced finalist with: clever touches in the cabin, zippy turbo engine and a generous warranty.

The final word goes to Richard Blackburn, motoring editor: “Every year, it’s getting more difficult to separate the best from the rest. Brands that buyers once turned their backs on are now every bit as good as the established players, while safety technology usually reserved for expensive luxury cars is increasingly available on cheap hatchbacks.”

 

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

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

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

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