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Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Lexus LC 500

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Lexus GS F 10 Anniversary

This Car Review Is About:
An absolute pearler of a car. The 2019 Lexus GS F is a pocket rocket and in 10th anniversary guise looks the part even more. Clad in one colour only, a matte-satin finish grey, and packing a set of blue painted brake callipers outside, backed by patches of blue suede inside, The GS F 10th Anniversary Edition has plenty of brawn to back up the looks. Price for the sleek four door starts at $155,940 plus on roads. GS stands for Grand Sedan or Grand Sport.Under The Bonnet Is:
Some serious numbers. 32 valves, four camshafts, 7100 rpm for the peak power of 351kW, and 530Nm between 4800rpm and 5600rpm. This sits inside a front track of 1555mm, with the rear almost the same at 1560mm. The overall length is hidden by the styling, with 4915mm looking less than the numbers suggest, with the wheelbase of 2850mm leaving some decent overhang.Fuel capacity is about average at 66L, with a rated combined fuel consumption figure of 11.3L for every one hundred kilometres driven. For a kerb weight of around 1865 kilograms, that’s a set of figures than can be lived with. Our real world testing in an urban environment saw figures closer to 10.0L/100km. And before you ask, no, there are no official figures for towing…

However, for a driver, and that’s exactly where this car is aimed, a DRIVER, the allure of those numbers, from a free spinning V8, with an exhaust note to die for, plus a simply stunning eight speed auto with two sports modes, means the wallet could take a thumping. Not just from the distinct possibility of a set of blue lights in the rear vision mirror, but in visiting the bowser.

On The Inside Is:
A mix of “standard” GS trim and a 10th Anniversary specific splash of blue. It contrasts vibrantly and perhaps not entirely harmoniously with the black. There’s blue suede on the upper dash and enough of it to make Elvis envious. There are blue hues on the powered, vented and heated, front seats with a white strip at the 12 o-clock, matching a similar strip in the driver’s pew. The rear seats and tiller also get swathes of blue. The engine bay doesn’t miss out, with the intake runners also copping the blues. The front seats have vents at the top, allowing a driver to fit proper race harnesses should track days be the choice.The dash is, finally, a normal looking design, not the multiple “mountain fold” look that Lexus has favoured. As a result there looks like more space, a clearer ergonomic layout, and a balanced look with the dials and analogue clock. The upper dash is dominated by the non-touch info screen, and controller aside, the depth of colour and clarity make it an excellent unit. That’s the same description that can be applied to the HUD, or Head Up Display. When properly positioned it becomes subliminally useful, there and knowing about it without consciously thinking of it.The steering wheel has the traditional Lexus layout for buttons to access info on the mostly full colour LCD screen and again the ergonomics is spot on. Said screen changes look and colour depending on which driving mode you select, however there’s a slight oddity. Semi-tucked away to the bottom right is the speedo. It’s an analogue dial, not digital. At the bottom left is a LCD display that shows lap times, torque split, and G-Force readings. As usual there is apps aplenty for the front seats, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Audio is courtesy of Mark Levinson and it’s beautiful to listen to. The DAB tuner is better than some, but still suffers from the same drop-out points. When tuned in, the system provides plenty of low end punch without distortion, and staging is quite impressive.On The Road It’s:
Every rude word kind of fun.

The GS F is an absolute delight to drive. It is a mechanical metaphor for strapping on your favourite gloves or boots, and knowing that a mere thought will yield a result. Throttle response is instant, a change of forward motion is instant, and at any speed. The brakes are divine too. Brush the pedal with the lightest caress and there’s feedback straight away. That goes for the steering. It’s brain quick in how it responds with even the barest touch seeing the nose track left or right. Uprated dampers add extra stiffness and improve the already excellent handling.

For lovers of sound there’s little better than the beautiful noise from front and rear of the GS F. On a push of the starter, there’s a momentary whirr before a basso profundo grumble from the four rear exhaust tips. Slot the gear selector into drive and the rumble drops in tone. Gently squeeze the accelerator and the GS F moves away with the docility of a sleepy kitten. Belt the living daylights out of the same pedal and you unleash a sleep deprived, very hungry, and very angry big cat.

The exhaust note will vary from a gentle burble to a vicious, snarling, ear ripping roar.The superbly sorted eight speed is a gem and helps with the exhaust note. Run up through the rev range and there’s a change in snarl as the ratios go up the ladder. Changes are invisible, and the eight ratios shake hands with the engine’s revs across the numbers. Manual shifting is on offer via the steering column mounted paddle shift, but they’re effectively pointless, such is the crispness of the transmission naturally. Flip the centre console mounted mode selector to Sports or Sports + and the response is incrementally even more rapid. Sports was the best compromise with defineably better off the line, and rolling gear, acceleration, with down-changes on Sports+ too long for true usability in a normal urban drive.

The centre console houses a button to adjust the torque at the driven end. Torque Vectoring Differential is the fancy name for it. It gives Standard, Slalom, and Track, with the second two best used in a race track driving day environment. And with the 50/50 weight distribution, land changes are instant.Naturally there is plenty of safety equipment. Packaged under the name of Lexus Safety System+, it incorporates rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitor among its suite of technologies.

The Outside Is:
Pretty damned good to look at. That aforementioned grey coats the slinky and sinuous curves of the GS sedan perfectly. There is a carbon-fibre rear lip spoiler sitting atop a 520L boot, some subtle plastic add-ons for extra aero streamlining. The pernicious grip levels of the GS F comes from the Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber at 275/35/19 that wrap black painted alloys, slotted discs, and those blue painted callipers.The “spindle grille” seems restrained on the GS F 10th Anniversary, blending nicely with the dark grey matte paint. It splits LED gead- and running-lights, and huge air intakes big enough to swallow a small car. A restrained use of chrome adds some visual contrasts.The Warranty Is:
Four years or 100,000 kilometres, with the additional benefit of Lexus Drive Care. That covers items such as a up to $150 one way taxi fares, a courier service for small parcels, even personal and clothing costs up to $250. Contact Lexus for servicing costs, though.

At The End Of The Drive.
The 2019 Lexus GS F 10th Anniversary is an absolute weapon. It’s tractable enough to be gently driven to the proverbial corner shop, and brutal enough to pick a fight with a great white shark, armed with a .50 cal, and win.

And why a 10th anniversary edition? Simple. Lexus has ten years of the F Sport range under its belt, and this is one excellent way to celebrate.

Info on the 2019 Lexus GS F is here.

 

Honda Goes Seven Up For CR-V

It’s a segment that continues to grow and is becoming hotly contested. Car makers aren’t satisfied with just five seats any more, and the seven seater SUV is taking the people mover segment head on. Honda has joined the fray and now has a seven seater. It’s a somewhat clumsy name but the 2019 Honda CR-V VTi-E7 is reasonably priced at $34, 490 plus on roads. There is a more upmarket version, called CR-V VTi-L7. That empties the bank balance to the tune of $38, 990.Motorvation is from a 1.5L turbocharged petrol fed powerplant. Peak power is 140kW, and peak torque is 240Nm, on tap from 2000rpm through to 5000rpm. That’s a crucial figure considering both the transmission is a CVT driving the front wheels only, and lugging seven people requires a hefty torque figure. Fuel economy is quoted as 7.3L/100km for the combined cycle, and 9.2L/100km for the urban cycle, its most likely home on road. However, there is an extensive features list to sweeten the appeal.There is: leather appointed seating, 2nd and 3rd row aircon outlets, and dual zone climate control to suit. Rear seat passengers get dual USB ports, and audio & apps have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The driver has an eight way powered seat and gets to check out the outside via a three mode reversing camera on a seven inch display screen. The CR-V seven seater rolls on 18 inch alloys and has, thankfully, a full sized alloy spare. Just in case, Honda have opted for a tyre pressure monitoring system.Honda has an extensive range of vehicles, including the re-release of the legendary NSX, and all can be found here.

Return Of The Icon: Suzuki Jimny Is Back!

Suzuki Australia has released details of the hotly anticipated 2019 Suzuki Jimny. Packed with proper off-road cred, historic styling cues, and some good looking new cues, the fourth gen Jimny goes on sale in the final days of January.  Pricing is $23, 990 and $25, 990, with both the manual and auto on a drive-away price. Unveiled to members of the Australian motoring press at the Melbourne 4×4 training grounds, near Werribee, west of Melbourne, the Jimny was put through its paces alongside its more soft road oriented sibling, the Vitara. That car has also been given a freshen up.

Jimny will come with a five speed manual or (disappointingly, just a four speed) auto, but, pleasantly, comes with a low range transfer case. This was put to the test across a variety of surfaces, slopes, (which included a thirty degree incline), and river fording.

Power is courtesy of a single engine choice. A seemingly small 1.5L petrol engine, (there’s no diesel) proved more than adequate in motivating the Jimny through these test sections. Peak power of 75kW and peak torque of 130Nm propelled the 1435kg (GVM) machine without issue.

Driven initially on dried and compact mud, the Jimny immediately impressed with its neutral handling and ready willingness to absorb the variance in the dirt. Given a short run-up to the concrete ramp, with first gear and low range four wheel drive selected, around 3000 revs were dialed up before the ascent of the ten metre plus incline. Straight away a downhill run was proffered, and Hill Descent Control showed its mettle.A gentle nudge over the edge, the leap of faith by keeping the foot off the brake to let the Jimmy do its thing, and seconds later back to the horizontal. Jimny is helped in its dexterity thanks to a departure angle of a staggering 49 degrees, with an almost equally short overhang providing a nearly as staggering 37 up front. Ramp or breakover angle is also impressive at 28 degrees and this also was tested without fuss.

Driven through some river crossings, the 210mm wading depth and 195/80/15 rubber gave ample traction for the Jimny, with the the comparatively lightweight machine feeling planted and stable.

Jimny rides on a ladder chassis that’s had an extra “x-member” and two cross members fitted for superb lateral and linear strength. Coupled with rigid axles front and rear, coil springs, and eight rubber body mounts, overall car control and feedback is superb inside the 2250mm wheelbase. That’s mightily impressive considering the 3480mm bumper to bumper length. Left in two wheel drive for normal performance, the turning circle is 4.9m but in 4×4 mode that increases.The aforementioned external styling cues come with the low set rear tail lights, distinctively circular front lights, five slot front grille and shallow angled bonnet with flutes in the bottom of the “A-pillar”. The indicators are separate to the headlights as well, as per the heritage ethic. A few extra touches come from the drip rails over the doors, solid and assertive black polyurethane body guards, and those low set tail lights allow a wider rear door opening to the plastic coated backs of the rear seats.

Modernity hits the Jimny with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satnav, a touchscreen of seven inches, and Bluetooth. Autonomous Emergency Braking, Hill Hold Control, Hill Descent Control, Lane Departure Warning, and auto headlight dipping, along with six airbags round out a well rounded safety package. However, the doors don’t have bottle holders, the seatbelts are well behind the driver and passenger shoulder, and the passenger’s grab bar looks as if reinforcing is needed.Pricing for the spunky and funky 2019 Suzuki Jimny, with a range of six colours, will be released later this week.

(David was given the opportunity to drive the new Jimny courtesy of Suzuki Australia.)

A Legend Returns: Toyota Supra Is Back.

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

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

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

Hydrogen Fuel Cells – The Basic Facts

One of the more exciting vehicles that’s scheduled to come to Australia at some unspecified date in 2019 is the Hyundai Nexo – one of the vehicles recently awarded the Best in Class for all-round safety by Euro NCAP.  This vehicle combines regular batteries with hydrogen fuel cell technology. Three vehicles made by major marques have been designed to run on HFCs: the aforementioned Hyundai Nexo, the Toyota  Mirai and the Honda  Clarity.

Toyota Mirai concept car

Hydrogen fuel cell technology is another option for overcoming our addiction to fossil fuels (the other two are biofuels and electricity).  But what is hydrogen fuel cell technology and how does it work?  Is it really that sustainable and/or environmentally friendly?  Isn’t hydrogen explosive, so will a car running on hydrogen fuel cell technology really be safe?

OK, let’s start with the basics: how does it work?

Diagram of a hydrogen fuel cell

A hydrogen fuel cell (let’s call it an HFC for short) is designed to generate electricity, so a vehicle that’s powered by HFC technology is technically an EV.  A chemical reaction takes place in the cell and this gets a current going, thanks to the delicate balance between positive and negative ions (all chemistry is, ultimately, to do with electricity). How is this different from a battery?  Well, a battery uses what’s stored inside it but an HFC needs a continual supply of fuel.  Think of a battery as being like a lake, whereas the HFC is a stream or a river.  The other thing that an HFC needs is something for the hydrogen fuel to react with as it passes through the cell itself, which consists of an anode, cathode and an electrolyte solution – and I don’t mean a fancy sports drink.  One of the things that hydrogen reacts best with and is readily found in the atmosphere is good old oxygen.

Naturally, there’s always a waste product produced from the reaction that generates the charge. This waste product is dihydrogen monoxide.  For those of you who haven’t heard of this, dihydrogen monoxide is a colourless, odourless compound that’s liquid at room temperature.  In gas form, dihydrogen monoxide is a well-known and very common greenhouse gas, and it’s quite corrosive to a number of metals (it’s a major component of acid rain).  It’s vital to the operation of nuclear-powered submarines and is widely used in industry as a solvent and coolant.  Although it has been used as a form of torture, it’s highly addictive to humans and is responsible for hundreds of human deaths globally every year.  Prolonged contact with dihydrogen monoxide in solid form causes severe tissue damage.  You can find more information about this potentially dangerous substance here*: http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html

For the less alarmist of us, dihydrogen monoxide is, of course, H2O or good old water, like the stuff I’m sipping on right now on a hot summer day.  Yes – that’s the main waste product produced by HFCs, which is why these are a bit of a hot topic in the world of environmental motoring.

OK, so air goes in one bit of the HFC, hydrogen gas goes in the other, and water and electrical power come out of it.  The next question that one has to ask is where the hydrogen fuel comes from (this question always needs to be asked: what’s the source of the fossil fuel substitute?).  The cheapest source of hydrogen gas as used on HFCs is natural gas, which is, unfortunately, a fossil fuel.  So are some of the other sources of hydrogen gas.  However, you can get it out of methane, which is the simplest type of hydrocarbon.  Methane can be produced naturally by bacteria that live in the guts of certain animals, especially cows.  Not sure how you can catch the methane from burping and farting cows for use in making hydrogen gas for HFCs.  And, just in case you’re wondering, some humans (not all!) do produce methane when they fart.  It’s down to the particular breed of bacteria in the gut (archaea if you want to be picky – they’re known as methanogens).  They’re as common as muck – literally.  So yes, there’s potential for hydrogen gas to be produced from natural sources – including from sewage.  The other thing is that producing hydrogen gas from methane leaves carbon dioxide behind.  But this has way less effect as a greenhouse gas than methane, so that’s a plus.

If you’re currently feeling that HFCs might not be quite as environmentally friendly after all and we all ought to drive straight EVs, then I encourage you to do a thorough investigation of how the electricity used to charge EVs comes from. It’s not always that carbon-neutral either.  Heck, even a bicycle isn’t carbon-neutral because when you puff and pant more to push those pedals, you are breathing out more carbon dioxide than normal.  All in all, HFCs are pretty darn good.  The worst thing they chuck out as exhaust is water, and the hydrogen gas needed to power them can come from sustainable sources – very sustainable if you get it from animal manure and/or sewage, which also means that poop becomes a resource instead of a problem to get rid of.  They’re doing this in Japan – and they’ve also managed to get the carbon bits of the methane to become calcium carbonate, which sequesters carbon and has all sorts of fun uses from a dietary supplement through to agricultural lime.

Another plus about HFCs is that they are a lot more efficient than combustion engines.  A large chunk of the potential energy going in turns into the electrical energy that you want, which is then turned into kinetic (motion) energy by the motor so your car gets moving (or it turns into some other form, such as light energy for the headlights or sound energy for the stereo system).  Some comes out in the form of heat.  Combustion engines waste a lot of the potential energy in the form of heat (lots of it!) and noise (ditto).

The amount of electrical energy produced by a single HFC isn’t going to be very large, so inside any vehicle powered by hydrogen technology, there will be a stack of HFCs, which work together to produce the full amount of oomph you need. The fun part in designing a vehicle that runs on HFC technology involves ensuring that the stack has the oomph needed without being too heavy and working out where to put the tanks of hydrogen gas.  However, this isn’t too hard.

The other problem with manufacturing HFC vehicles is that the catalyst inside the cells is expensive – platinum is common.  This is probably one of the biggest barriers to the spread of the technology, along with the usual issue of nobody buying HFC vehicles because nobody’s got an easy place to get the gas from and nobody’s selling the gas because nobody’s buying HFC cars.  They had the same issue with plug-in EVs too, remember, and we all know how that’s changed.  However, last year, our very own CSIRO came up with some technology to get hydrogen fuel for HFC vehicles out of ammonia and they want to go crazy with this and use it all over the show.  This is exciting stuff and probably deserves a post of its very own, so I’ll tell you more about that another day.

I feel in the need for some 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine theine combined with dihydrogen monoxide in solution with β-D-galactopyranosyl-(1→4)-D-glucose and calcium phosphate, also known as a cup of coffee, so it’s time for me to stop and to wish you safe and happy driving – hopefully without too much methane inside the cabin of your car on long journeys!

*Some people in the world have far, far too much time on their hands.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 MY Isuzu MU-X LS-U Seven Seater

This Car Review Is About:
The 2018 model year MU-X from Isuzu. It’s a diesel fed engine range only, comes with seven seats, and two or four wheel drive across three trim levels. The vehicle tested was the near top of the range seven seater with four wheel drive called LS-U. Prices start at $50,200 plus on road costs for the entry level MU-X LS-M, $50,400 for the LS-U, and $56,200 for the top of the range LS-T.Under The Bonnet Is:
A low revving 3.0L diesel that produces 130kW at 3600rpm, and delivers 430Nm of torque between 2000 to 2200rpm. There is 300Nm on tap at just 1500rpm. Isuzu quote the engine as consuming, on a combined cycle, 7.9L to 8.1L per 100km, depending on trim level. The review vehicle was with us for just under three weeks, with a majority of country running (close to 2000km being covered), and generally with four aboard plus cargo. We finished on 8.5L/100km, decent considering the 2750kg gross vehicle mass (GVM). It’s rated as Euro5 for emissions and for up to 3.0 tonnes for towing. Fuel capacity is 65 litres.It’s a key start, not push button. A simple turn, the engine fires up almost immediately. The engine itself has a variable geometry turbo which is designed to alter the flow of engine exhaust in an effort to overcome the phenomenon known as turbo lag. It’s mostly well sorted here, however there were more than a few occasions where the engine felt like it was switched off, and they were invariably coming into a stop zone, and then being able to continue fairly quickly. The response was as if the turbo had stopped and needed a reboot to start spinning again.

It’s a fairly quiet unit, especially when off-load pedal wise. Hard acceleration brings out the typical diesel clatter and chatter but it’s surprisingly quiet otherwise. A good analogy is being in an aircraft coming into land, where the engine noise drops and becomes a background sound.

Transmission choices are limited. The range is mainly a six speed auto, however there is a six speed manual available on the 4×4 LS-U. The review vehicle was fitted with the auto and it’s fair to say it’s a very well sorted unit. Given the engine’s low stress, low rev, locomotive style characteristics, the ratios for the auto do a great job of harnessing the torque. 110kmh sees around 1600rpm in sixth on the freeway. 120kmh is still just under 2000rpm. Shifts are smooth, mostly seamless, and the Hill Descent Control part of the software knocks the gearbox back a cog or two and holds there on downhill tarmac based runs.

The four wheel drive system is operated electronically. A centre console mounted dial allows shifting between two wheel drive to four wheel drive high range “on the fly” at speeds up to one hundred kilometres per hour. Low range requires a stopped vehicle, neutral, and Drive. The end result is a solid, proven, ability to get some real dirt into the 255/60/18 rubber from Bridgestone.

On The Inside Is:
Seven seats, all cloth covered in the LS-U with Isuzu PR also throwing in rubber mats, a decision that paid dividends later. Trim is mainly black plastic, with a semi-gloss sheen. The third row seats are pull-strap operated, with a simple pull to both raise and lower. There is some additional cargo compartments fitted at the rear behind these seats. Middle row seats are tumble fold, allowing access from the rear door to the seats. The tail gate is manually operated, not powered.The driver’s seat is powered, with the passenger’s manually operated. The dash is a simple affair and varies considerably from Holden’s Trailblazer (formerly Colorado 7). The centre stack is dominated by a large dial for the aircon temperatures, with fan control, air direction, etc mounted in a sub-circle around it. This feeds extra vents in the roof which are themselves controlled by a separate dial for fan speed in the roof, with a dash mounted on/off button. The upper console has a shallow but broad storage locker, with a button that sometimes sticks. Centre console storage is a small locker and two cup/bottle holders.The driver’s dash display is simple, again with a circular theme in the LCD screen. This features fuel on the right in segments, with engine temperature on the left. The screen is multifunction, showing travel distance, distance to empty, fuel consumption, and more. Access is via a push button on both stalks, meaning you can scroll through left to right, or vice versa. It’s a nicely laid out look and shows up how badly the main eight inch touchscreen needs an overhaul. It’s full of pale, pastel, colours, looks like a washed out example of something on Japanese TV screens from the 1980s, and although featuring satnav, the response time is slow. Too slow. Also, there is no DAB audio. To counter this, it links to both DVD and CD, with roof mounted surround speakers for the front seats. Should one wish to utilise the cargo, up to 1830L of space is available with rear and middle row seats folded.Head, leg, and shoulder room aren’t a problem. Isuzu lists front leg room as 1106mm, middle as 915mm, and rear at 815mm. Head room up front is 1009mm, middle at 980mm, and 929mm for the rear. This provides great all round vision for the family. Shoulder room is 1453mm, 1340mm, 1009mm respectively.The Outside Has:
The test car had a tow bar, weather shields, and bonnet protector fitted. Check with your Isuzu dealer for costings. Paint is a gorgeous pearlescent white, and highlights the 1860mm height, 4825mm length, and 1860mm width nicely. Although the exterior shaping hasn’t changed much over the last few years, there has been a couple of subtle rejigs to at least keep a semblance of freshness. The front is a gentle yet assertive mix of angles, with LED running lights set as eyebrows above the main lights. There are globes in the lower bumper section to back these up.The black plastic bonnet protector and weather shields contrast well with the white pearl. Isuzu offer Cosmic Black, Havana Brown, Magnetic Red, Obsidian Grey, Titanium Silver, and Splash White as their palette. All highlight the muscular stance and body of the MU-X’s stern stare and do a good job of slim-lining the otherwise bulky rear. A full sized spare is mounted outside and under the cargo area.

The design allows the MU-X to have an approach angle of 24 degrees, 25 degrees departure, but the high centre of gravity provides just 19 degrees of ramp-over. Isuzu back up the ability by adding in a solid list of safety features. Four channel ABS, Electronic Stability Control, and Hill Descent Control get backed up by Trailer Sway Control. Reverse Camera, rear sensors, and six airbags are also standard.

On The Road It’s:
An easy going, lope along, low stress machine. The readily available torque down low is somewhat hobbled in the acceleration stakes by both the gearing and the fact it runs out of puff quickly once around the 3500rpm mark. It’s just above idle when traveling at around sixty, meaning the diesel chatter is a muted background thrum. The characteristics of the package settle down to something simple: it’s muscular but not quick, with overtaking an example of planning ahead.

The review car was taken on two substantial country trips from the Blue Mountains where it demonstrated its easy going highway nature. It’s a superb cruiser, and with the revs sitting below 2000rpm it really is a super relaxed machine to be in. Although the cloth seats lacked ventilation, they are well padded enough to have a two to three hour stint behind the wheel having the driver relatively fresh. The relatively high sidewalls on the rubber add a sometimes spongy ride but also do a lot to help absorption of varying road surfaces, both on and off tarmac. Front suspension is coil springs around gas filled dampers, with a multi-link rear end and gas filled dampers feeling marginally softer.

On the straight the MU-X is solidly planted however the steering lacks real feel. It’s like a tight and twisted rubber rope from centre to a good half turn either side. Oddly enough, the response is quite quick but the slightly soft suspension and a feeling of a high centre of gravity leave a sensation of spongy movement, a lurching body. In context, any moves need to be planned, such as they were on the highway south of Canberra and between Cooma and Bega.

A properly trained driver can adjust to the body movement and work with it to ensure a smooth transition from planted to movement. Brown Mountain is a prime example of this. There’s a down and up hill section of ten kilometres that tests both engine and transmission, both steering and ride. The steering gets a excellent test here and the MU-X needs some judicious handwork to make sure weight transfer is kept to a minimum. The brakes on the MU-X are pretty damned good at dealing with downhill runs too, with reasonable pedal feedback, a decent movement through the pedal travel, and good ability to haul it up when required.The MU-X was taken off road and with ground clearance of 230mm it’s not the highest sitting machine but managed a section of the Bega river with no qualms. Four wheel drive high was all that was needed. It was a different story on a local fire trail well used for off-road testing. Water pressure popped an insert in the lower left bumper, dislodged a plastic shroud, and a rock compressed a side step. All nothing major but enough to show some reinforcement is required. What was also noticeable is a sensation of the suspension stiffening up, adding more confidence to the ride.The Warranty Is:
Five years or 130,000 kilometres, with capped price servicing for the first five services.

At The End Of The Drive.
Isuzu’s industrial heritage is on display here with the MU-X. And that’s a good thing. It’s strong, reliable, and comfortable. The interior could use a lift in presence, especially the dash and console, otherwise it’s comfortable enough to be in and to drive from. Fit and finish on the inside is tight and well made, with a good glass area helping minimise feelings of being closed in. The economy is also great for a family, with consistent figures below 9.0L/100kmh for a loaded vehicle a surefire winner.

What was noticeable during the near three weeks of review time was the sheer amount of D-Max and MU-X vehicles seen. This, amongst many reasons, is reason enough to consider the Isuzu MU-X range when looking for a family oriented SUV. Here is the link to access further details and download a brochure. Don’t forget to contact Private Fleet to see what we can do for you.

Toyota Takes Five, Warranty Wise.

Just days after Subaru announced they will be offering a five year and/or unlimited kilometre warranty, Toyota has joined the party. They’ve announced the introduction of the Toyota Warranty Advantage – a standard five-year manufacturer warranty for all new Toyota vehicles sold from January 1, 2019. For private buyers there’s an unlimited kilometres warranty, with commercial vehicles getting 160,000 kilometres.

Toyota also offers a 60 buy-back scheme. Owners of new vehicles are entitled to a full refund for any failure that prevents the vehicle being driveable within 60 days of collecting their new vehicles, and this 60-day money-back guarantee also applies where there have been multiple unsuccessful attempts to repair a vehicle. There is an added bonus; Toyota dealers will cover the cost of a loan vehicle and towing, if required, if a vehicle requires a warranty repair and is deemed as undriveable.

Like most companies, Toyota will now offer an extended warranty if a new car is serviced to log book specifications, of up to an extra two years. This also extends to hybrid cars and the battery systems with an extra five years and/or unlimited kilometres as long as an annual hybrid “health check” is carried out by Toyota from the fifth year onwards.

If there is a component failure due to a manufacturing defect, the coverage and apply past the Toyota Warranty Advantage period. This also covers, thankfully, Toyota genuine parts and accessories, with coverage up to five years and linked to the vehicle’s warranty coverage.

Sean Hanley, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, said: “The Toyota Warranty Advantage demonstrates the willingness of Toyota and our dealers to provide excellent customer care that matches the enviable reputation of our vehicles for quality, durability and reliability. Our guests have told us that being able to remain on the road, with minimal disruption and inconvenience was most important to them.”

He also said: “Which is why we’ve taken the time to develop the Toyota Warranty Advantage, to ensure that we deliver what our guests are looking for – a consumer-focused warranty program that will ensure that Toyota owners feel confident and appreciated throughout an exceptional ownership experience.”

Toyota have also gone hard on capped price servicing. All new Toyota vehicles are also covered by Toyota Service Advantage, with a new Toyota HiLux costing just $180 (petrol) or $240 (diesel) for each of the first six scheduled services over three years or 60,000km (whichever occurs first). A new Toyota Corolla hybrid costs just $175 for each of the first five annual scheduled services over five years or 75,000km (whichever occurs first).

Contact your Toyota dealership for details.

Subaru High Fives! The Warranty, That Is.

Subaru has joined the extended warranty club, with five years and unlimited kilometres warranty now being made standard. As an added benefit, Subaru will extend the warranty of three years to five.

As Subaru’s website says: If you purchased your new Subaru before 1 January 2019 and during a campaign period which included an offer of a 2 year manufacturer’s extended warranty, your standard Subaru Warranty of 3 Years/Unlimited Kilometres will automatically have been extended to 5 Years/Unlimited Kilometres.

If your vehicle’s warranty is extended under the offer you will have received a communication from Subaru Australia confirming your vehicle is covered by a 5 Year/Unlimited Kilometre Warranty.

This brings Subaru into line with all but two manufacturers in the mainstream marketplace, with just Toyota and Nissan left holding the three year warranty line.

Any vehicle bought new from Subaru from January 1 automatically attracts the new warranty as well. Extra peace of mind comes in owner transferable warranty, meaning that if an owner of a vehicle with the five year warranty on-sells the car within that period then the warranty goes with the car.

The fine print can be found here:Subaru Five Year Warranty

2019 Mitsubishi Triton Is Ready To Rumble.

Updated, stronger, and better, the Mitsubishi Triton update for 2019 is on the way. Mitsubishi have given the Triton a new face, with their proprietary “Dynamic Shield” front and centre. The all wheel drive system has been given an update, and the level of safety has been improved even further.The design team have gone to some length to ensure that, as a 4WD capable off-roader, that design elements provide good looks and safety. This extends to the placement of the headlights and the judicious use of chrome to highlight the Shield design ethic. The rear end has been given a makeover also, with reprofiled tail lights and bumper adding extra visual appeal.Underneath and outside are changes to the drivetrain and body styles. There is the four door cabin or double cab, the club cab with storage space behind the seats, and the single cab, with extra tray capacity. The all terrain system has been improved with the 2WD and 4WD Super-Select now getting Mud/Snow, Sand, Gravel, and Rock in the GLS and GLS Premium trim levels, with the latter receiving a rear diff lock. Naturally there are the high and low range gearing in the drivetrain. The 4WD versions have a ground clearance of 220mm, an approach angle of 31 degrees, and a departure angle of 23 degrees. Breakover angle is 25 degrees. The suspension has been kept at the double wishbone front and double leaf rear springs, with a change to the structure and the addition of bigger dampers for better ride control.

Safety now has Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Blind Spot Warning (with Lane Change Assist), Front Collision Mitigation (FCM) autonomous braking with camera and laser radar systems to detect cars and pedestrians;and Ultrasonic misacceleration Mitigation System (UMS) which reads surrounding areas and blanks engine power if it reads a presence.The interior has had the wand waved over it. Materials have been given a colour change to a more even toned scheme, with a alloy look plastic trim fitment and stitching on certain parts of the cabin bringing in a luxurious look. A repositioning of the console has extra storage space being made available, plus there is the addition of a USB charging point for rear seat passengers. Up front, the driver seeds a redesigned dash display with a higher definition than before screen.To get the Triton underway, Mitsubishi use their well sorted 2.5L diesel. Peak power is 133kW at 3500rpm, with peak torque of 430Nm coming in at a very usable 2500rpm. The engine block itself is lighter and built using a diescast alloy formula. the existing five speed auto has been bumped for a six speed, with taller gear ratios for better fuel economy. The existing six speed manual remains. The entry level model stays with the 2.4L petrol engine and five speed manual combination.

The range kicks off with the 4×2 GLX cab chassis, with the 2.4L petrol engine and manual at a manufacturers list price of $22,490. The Club cab starts at $35,490 for the GLX manual and diesel, whilst the dual cab starts with the GLX pick-up from $36,290 and tops out at $51,990 for the 4×4 GLS Premium 2.4L Pick Up Auto Diesel.The 2019 Triton range is due for release in the first quarter of the year.