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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

Holden On For The Future: Commodore VXR.

We’re not far from seeing the cessation of automotive manufacturing here in Australia, with Holden, Toyota, and HSV due to wrap up before the end of 2017. Holden will move to fully sourcing cars from Europe and with the sale of Opel to PSA Group, owner of Peugeot and Citroen, have a potentially larger portfolio to choose from. In the interim, however, Holden has provided details of the forthcoming Commodore and that’s a decision that’s divided Holden fans. That decision is to have kept the nameplate of Commodore and not move to something else.
Gone is the SS nameplate and replacing it is VXR. Here are the details.It packs a 3.6-litre V6 engine pumping out 235W and 381Nm, is paired with a 9-speed transmission and adaptive all-wheel drive system boasting torque vectoring technology and a twin-clutch rear differential. Combined with the selectable drive modes, the all-new Commodore VXR blends power with control for ultimate driver engagement. Differentiating the VXR as the jewel in the next-generation Commodore crown, the range-topping model boasts Brembo front brakes and a unique sports set-up allowing drivers to switch between driving modes. Driver-adjustable settings include Continuous Damping Control (CDC), steering, transmission and the adaptive AWD system.

The next-generation Commodore VXR will be on sale alongside the rest of the sedan range, along with Sportwagon and Tourer body styles, in early 2018.NEXT-GENERATION COMMODORE VXR KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

Performance credentials:
3.6-litre V6 engine
9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifter select
Adaptive AWD with torque vectoring
Hi-per strut suspension
Three driver-select modes for engaging drive experience;

Sports inspired styling:
Front and rear sports fascias
Unique VXR rear lip spoiler
20-inch alloy wheels
Unique VXR sports performance front seats
Heated and ventilated leather front seats

Cutting-edge driver assistance systems and technology:
Next-generation Adaptive LED Matrix headlights
360 degree camera
Autonomous Emergency Braking (with pedestrian protection)
Adaptive Cruise Control
Lane Departure Warning
Lane Keep Assist
Forward Collision Alert
Side Blind-Zone Alert
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
Head Up Display

The next generation Commodore VXR also adds sports styling to its “Sculptural Artistry Meets German Precision” design language with bespoke twenty inch wheels, larger rear spoiler, front and rear sports fascias, and premium VXR sill plates.

Head to www.holden.com.au for details on the current and forthcoming range.

BMW Goes Back To The Future With M4 CS.

BMW Australia has released details of the forthcoming M4 CS. With a whopping 338 kilowatt engine and packing a torque punch of 600 Nm, the hot two door will start from $211,610.00 with an expected release date of late 2017.
It’ll sit at the top of a refreshed M4 range, comprising the M4, M4 Pure, M4 Competition and also sources elements from the limited edition M4 GTS.The CS also harkens back to the 1960s, with the CS nomenclature first seen on the beautiful 3200 CS of 1962. It swapped to the 2000 CS in 1965, and the evocative 1971 E9 Series 3.0 CS. The current version uses BMW’s legendary straight six powerplant, with a 3.0L capacity. There’s two mono-scroll turbos strapped to the engine, which features a rigid closed-deck cylinder block, forged crankshaft and arc-sprayed cylinder walls, the six-cylinder is light and strong with minimal friction loss and outstanding high-rev capability, all the way to a 7,600rpm red-line.The turbos dump unwanted air via a dual-branch sports exhaust system with quad 80mm tailpipes which adds an aggressive acoustic while keeping back pressure as low as possible. Electronically-controlled exhaust flaps further contribute to exhaust volume and gas flow depending on the vehicle’s load state and selected drive mode.

Changes in the engine’s electronic management system leads to a 7kW power increase over the M4 Competition, with 338kW available at 6,250rpm. Vitally, peak torque is improved by 50Nm to a round 600Nm, a match for the legendary M4 GTS. According to the BMW M dynamometer charts, the M4 CS peak torque figure is generated from 4,000rpm to 5,380rpm.There’s a specific chassis tune for the M4 CS, with the aluminuim based structure allowing a driver to choose from Comfort, Sport, and Sport+. Up front is a lightweight double-joint spring strut layout, with the five-link axle featured at the rear. All suspension links and wheel carriers are made from forged aluminium. The M4 CS will ride on 10 spoke forged alloy wheels, with the front being 9 x 19 inches and weighing just 9 kilos, whilst the rears will weigh just under ten kilos and be 10 x 20 inches in size. Brakes are four piston fronts and twin pistons at the rear.The whole car weights under 1600 kilos thanks to lightweight carbon-fibre and carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), with an exposed carbon fibre diffuser that is specific to the CS and helps to substantially reduce front axle ‘lift’. The twin headlights are LEDs, the bonnet is CFRP, as is the roof and weighs six kilos lighter than a steel roof. The rear diffuser is also CFRP and is borrowed from the M4 GTS as is the exclusive Organic LED rear lighting system.It’s more track and sports focused inside than a regular M4, but there’s still plenty of luxury, with Alcantara trim on the door armrests, passenger side dash tim which includes an etched CS designation, on the centre console and mixed in with leather on the seats. A leather wrapped tiller is available as a no-cost option.

There’ll be a Head Up Display with M specific content, BMW’s Connected Drive Services, hands free Bluetooth, digital radio and parking distance control for the front and rear sensors. Two metallic paint options – Black Sapphire and San Marino Blue – are available as standard equipment, while the non-metallic Alpine White is a no-cost option.In addition, two special BMW Individual paint finishes are available for $4,400*, the bespoke Lime Rock Grey and the Frozen Dark Blue II.

M Carbon Ceramic brakes, roller rear sunblind, sun protection glazing, a headlight washer system, TV function and Apple Car Play integration are also optionally available.

For more information head to BMW Australia and you can follow BMW here: BMW Group on Facebook

(With thanks to BMW Australia for information and images.)

Private Fleet Car Reviews: 2017 Holden Astra RS manual hatch

Holden’s move to bring in its range of vehicles from Europe has already paid off with the fully European sourced Astra. With an all turbocharged engine range, the 2017 Astra family, which starts at $23990 driveaway, offers power, performance, and plenty of tech, as A Wheel Thing drives the 2017 Holden Astra 1.6L RS manual.It’s the 1.6L four here, with an immensely handy 280 torques between 1650 to 3500 revs and rolls off to the 147 kW peak output at 5500. So far it’s a numbers game, including six, six being how many forward ratios in the manual transmission supplied. It’s a delight, this transmission, with a beautifully progressive clutch pedal and a pickup point that feels natural. The gear selector is also well weighted, with no indecision in the close throw and tautly sprung lever. Reverse is across to the left and up, easily selected by a pistol grip trigger on the selecter’s front. It’s a delightfully refined package, one worth investigating, and a prime reason why we should move away from automatics as our primary transmission. Economy? A Wheel Thing finished on a sub 7.0L per 100L of 95 RON from the 48 litre tank.It’s a sweet looking machine too. A sharp yet slimline nose, with striking silver accents, rolls into a steeply raked front window, with good side vision before finishing with a somewhat odd looking C pillar design incorporating a pyramidical motif. There’s a black sheet between this and the roofline and there’s further eyeball catching with the deep scallops in the doors. Beautifully styled tail lights finish off what really is a handsome vehicle. Inside you’ll find a well sculpted office. There’s piano black highlights that contrast with charcoal grey black plastic and cloth trim on the seats in a checkerboard pattern. The dash design itself is organic, flowing, and evokes the design ethos of higher end luxury cars. The pews front and rear are wonderfully supportive and have just the right amount of give and bolstering. Rear seat passengers get enough leg room for comfort also and there’s no problem with head room for front or rear with 1003 mm and 971 mm respectively. The driver and passenger do not get electric seats, though, however there is DAB for the high quality audio system that’s part of the GM family’s MyLink set. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with streaming apps. For those that like to carry kids and shopping, there’s 360L pf cargo space with the seats folded up, cupholders front and rear, USB charger point, seatback pockets, and door pockets as well.The driver and passenger do not get electric seats, though as they’re reserved for the RS-V, however there is DAB for the high quality audio system that’s part of the GM family’s MyLink set. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with streaming apps and the leather clad tiller has audio and cruise controls that are pure GM in their ease of use. For those that like to carry kids and shopping, there’s 360L pf cargo space with the seats folded up, cupholders front and rear, USB charger point, seatback pockets, and door pockets as well.It’s its road manners and driveability where the Astra RS really shines. The six speed manual is fluid, smooth, and completely complements the torque delivery of the 1.6L powerplant. What makes the Astra RS a delight to drive is the beautifully balanced suspension. It really is one of the best ride packages you’ll find. Period. The suppleness of the suspension is deft in its ability to change with road surface changes, whilst it firms up to provide a sporting feel when required. Rubber is from France, with lightning bolt 17 inch alloys wrapped in Michelin 225/45 tyres.From smooth freeway surfaces such as those found in western Sydney where some areas have been freshly resurfaced, to gravelled and rutted entrance roads, the Astra RS feels comfortable and poised across these and every surface in between. Thrown into off camber turns the hatch sits flat and under control and rarely does the rear end feel as if it’s not attached to the front. The steering itself is weighted just so, with a fine balance of effort versus connection to the front. There’s a bare hint of understeer being a front wheel drive car and while hint ar torque steer when the go pedal is given a hard push from standstill.Holden will give you a three year or one hundred thousand kilometre warranty, which, given the levels of warranty offered by others is starting to look a little dated. However they do offer Lifetime Capped Price Servicing plus you can take the car for a twenty four hour test drive to make up your own mind. Yes, you’ll find driver aids on board and the RS gets Automatic Emergency Braking in the suite of aids.

At The End Of The Drive.

The RS Astra, priced in the mid twenty thousand dollar range, is perhaps one of the most complete packages you can buy as a driver’s car. A torquey engine, a slick manual transmission, a comfortable office and with enough tech on board for emjoyment and safety, plus a beautifully tuned chassis add up to provide one of the most pleasureable drive experiences available. And that price makes it a competitive package in regards to value as well. Go here to check it out plus look at the new sedan: 2017 Holden Astra hatch range