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Do Honda’s Changes Signal the Beginning of an Australian Exit?

After Holden made the much-anticipated and expected decision to withdraw from the Australian market, attention has turned towards the rest of the industry, as it faces a growing crisis. Compounded by the Coronavirus pandemic that is spreading across the world, local car dealers were already up against it, competing in a market that has been tracking at its worst levels since the GFC.

With pressure only likely to grow in the wake of the health and economic crisis that our country now faces, more questions are being asked about how sustainable it is for manufacturers to compete in such a small yet hotly-contested market such as ours.

This has sparked a lot of speculation around which companies might be next to exit Australia. Honda has enjoyed particularly strong sales in Australia over the years, but with the company facing profitability issues at a global level, the directive has been to improve its operational efficiencies. This has convinced some industry insiders that it was likely to be a matter of time before the Japanese brand would need to respond, and respond they have.

 

 

Dealership changes

Earlier this month, Honda was said to be considering three potential options for its future down under. First, the company was understood to have the option to close its national network and exit the market. Second, the Japanese auto-maker could pursue a ‘rationalisation’ strategy and reduce the number of showrooms across the country. Finally, the company could move towards an independent distributor model.

Commenting on the speculation at the time, the company said, “Honda is committed to the Australian market and as a part of normal business, regularly assesses its operations and organisational performance. We committed to our dealer network that we would update them on our long-term plans in the first quarter of 2020 and we are planning to do this later this month”.

In recent days, the company has come to a decision. Starting from the middle of 2021, Honda will slash the number of dealerships across the country. From over 100 dealers at the moment, there are expected to be around 60 by the time the changes take place. Their owners are expected to reduce from 71 to just 12. In addition, the brand will also move to eliminate underperforming car models and adopt an “agency” style business with fixed prices across the board.

The move is set to spark a sharp cut in jobs across the Honda network, as well as a sizeable slump in sales for the brand as it focuses predominantly on the Civic small car, HR-V small SUV and CR-V medium SUV. On the back of the news, however, dealers have begun to interpret the move as the early stages of a formal Australian exit for the company. In the meantime, the official line from the manufacturer reads, “we are committed to the Australian market. This is about strengthening the business for the future”. But aren’t those familiar words we’ve heard before?

 

2020 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Mitsubishi’s in a revamp phase and the Pajero Sport, once known as Challenger, is now into its second generation under that name. There’s been some mild updates to the exterior at either end and a little bit of a tickle inside as well. It’s a three model & four trim level range, with a five seater GLX, five or seven seater GLS, and seven seater Exceed, all with a diesel engine and eight speed auto transmission.

How Much Does It Cost?: There’s a spread of fourteen thousand dollars with the GLX starting at $45,990 drive-away, with the Exceed at $59,990 drive-away. The range has seven colours, including the White Diamond pearlescent on the Exceed tested. The RRP (before charges) price for the Exceed is $57,190. The White Diamond paint is $940, and this vehicle was fitted with a Front Protection Bar, towbar, and electric brakes for anything towed. Mitsubishi Au confirmed the front bar is $3,513, with the towbar and ball at $1,299, plus brakes at $685. With those accessories and paint the final d/a price was $65,687 as driven. Side steps are standard.Under The Bonnet Is: 133kW and 430Nm of power and torque from a 2.4L diesel. 8.0L per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle is the quoted figure for consumption, which indicates a higher figure around town. That’s how it worked out with a variance of consumption, from 9.0L to 12.5L around town. As is the wont for Mitsubishi’s on-board consumption figures, highway runs bring the figures down and we saw a best of 8.0L/100km on our last highway run.

On The Outside It’s: A refreshed nose and a tidy up of the much maligned rear lights. These have the vertical stripes shortened and now stop at the horizontal shut line in the powered rear door that matches the join line of the bumper. The front end sees a slim-down of the shield grille and headlights, and it’s a tighter, cleaner, design. A higher bonnet line also adds to the cleaner presence. The tailgate is powered and now features a hands-free, kick operated, sensor to open.The 18 inch alloys fitted are available as an option on the other vehicles, and have Toyo 265/60 Open Country rubber. These sit nicely in the large wheel wells.

On The Inside It’s: Been given a new display for the driver and a new smartphone-link Display Audio (SDA) system via the 8.0 touchscreen includes TomTom navigation for the Exceed model only, and utilises both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A newly developed Mitsubishi app can pair the vehicle to the app, which remotely allows power tailgate operation and engine shut-off.Some interior changes have added to one key feature and appeal level: family. There is now a proper Australian specification power outlet at the rear base of the centre console along with a dual USB port, There are a pair up front plus a HDMI port for playback on the touchscreen. A subtle redesign for the centre console has been done and provides a look more in keeping with society’s keen eyes nowadays. An under-seat tray has been installed for the passenger seat and there’s been extra padding added throughout the cabin.The driver’s display has been given the most visible overhaul. This is also an 8.0 colour screen in the Exceed, and a steering wheel tab provides two similar but different screens. One has the rev counter encircling the speedometer reading and the other has a traditional speed look. It’s modern, upmarket, and flanked by temperature and fuel gauges it has a measure of class as well.Front seats come with heating, no venting, and aren’t the best going in respect to support. They’re a bit flat, a bit slabby, and aren’t the first word in support. That’s disappointing given the Pajero Sport has off road driving ability and a grab handle isn’t quite enough.

Interior space is family friendly. 1,022mm head room up front and 1,067mm leg room for the front row starts the party. 880mm and 695mm leg room for rows two and three are enough for most families and passenger carrying. At the rear the cargo goes from 131L with all seats up to a very handy 1,488L with the centre and rear rows laid flat. The rear seats are typical Mitsubishi, by the way, with that superbly simple pull-strap system for raising and lowering them. Staying with the family friendly theme is having six cup holders and four bottle holders distributed around the cabin for easy access.One niggle, however, was the windscreen wiper spray mechanism. There are just four jets and they’re not quite efficient. An arm mounted mechanism would be a better option.

On The Road It’s: Sluggish to get going, sluggish in overtaking, and overall somewhat disappointing, considering it’s no lightweight nor is it a heavyweight at 2,110kg dry. The easiest way to describe its driving prowess is to say the handbrake was partially on, or it was towing an anchor. It came as a surprise that it wasn’t as spritely as expected, and the very first thought was tyre pressures. Given the exceedingly professional nature of the staff that prepare the vehicles to be reviewed, it was no surprise that these also were fine.

The engine was surprisingly chattery, and in comparison to the vehicle swapped into, and to be reviewed next, the overall driving experience didn’t live up to expectations. The transmission was perhaps a standout, with super slick down-changes, excellent holding of gears on downhill drives, and was quick to respond to throttle change requests.

Steering feedback was a little vague yet response was quick. It’s got enough weight to require a little bit of “Armstrong” yet will allow moving the Pajero Sport around the shopping centre car park a relatively pain-free experience. Ditto for the brakes; they’re a little iffi-ish initially but provide more bite and feedback as the pedal travels south.

Actual off-road performance comes courtesy of the Super-Select system with high and low range four wheel drive, complete with locking centre and rear diffs for true mud-mauling, rock-climbing ability.What About Safety?: A “Multi-Around Monitor” as Mitsubishi calls it, which is a 360 degree camera view, along with Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Mitigation, Ultrasonic misacceleration Mitigation System (UMS), and the usual alerts for Rear Cross Traffic and Blind Spots are standard. Airbags are seven including driver’s kneebag.

What About Warranty And Service?: At the time of writing, Mitsubishi Australia are offering seven years or 150,000 kilometres warranty. This particular offer expires March 31, 2020. Servicing details can be found on the Mitsubishi Motors Australia website.

At The End Of The Drive. The 2020 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed is most definitely a family oriented vehicle. That’s made obvious by the features such as the USB ports, bottle holders, easy access for the rear seats, and more.

However, the drive experience lacks and more than expected. It really did comes as a surprise and having driven the previous version and when it was known as Challenger, we’d have to suppose there was something with this particular vehicle and not indicative of the range.

Organise your own test drive by contacting your local Mitsubishi dealer via their on-line contact form.

 

Korea Progression: 2020 Kia Sorento

Korea’s Kia has loaded up and fired broadsides in the battle to win a buyer’s heart in the thriving SUV passenger vehicle segment.

Kia Sorento.
Currently scheduled for an Australian release sometime mid-year, the updated Sorento has been given a substantial makeover. Key changes are to the exterior, particularly to the rear lights, front lights, and sheet-metal. There is a re-interpretation of the signature tiger nose grille, with a wider design that encompasses the headlights. The headlights have also been re-imagined with what Kia calls a “tiger eye” LED DRL, said to evoke the lines around a tiger’s eyes. The lower air intake is bracketed by a pair of wing shaped intakes that assist in funneling air around the sides of the 2020 Sorento.Kia’s added 10mm to the width taking it to a flat 1,900mm. It’s also longer by the same amount taking it to 4,810mm. The overhangs have been trimmed to give an impression of extra length and this has been helped by an increase in wheelbase length, up to 2,815mm from 2,780mm. Those changes hide the small 10mm increase in total height. Visually, the A-pillars have been pushed back making for a longer bonnet and a character line that draws the eye rearwards to the completely new rear lights. These are a more vertical styling and echo those seen on a premium U.K. brand, particularly with a three bar vertical theme. Underneath is a valance insert that gives the appearance of quad exhausts.Recognisable Sorento design cues and new ones are here. There’s the broad D-pillar at the rear, the poly-carbonate clad wheel arches, and the more modern “shark fin” window insert on the C-pillar. Sharper body mould crease lines also feature. Australian spec Sorentos will have a choice of seven exterior colours and four wheel sizes, from 17 to 20 inches in diameter.

Head inside and Kia’s designers have gone up a notch here. There’s an ultra-widescreen look for the driver and infotainment system, with a 12.3-inch digital driver instrument cluster paired with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system. The engineers have placed a new haptic feedback system to assist in controlling some key features including the climate control. A new look has been applied to the centre stack too.Ambient lighting is now part of the mood-setting system for the interior. There is downlighting from underneath the dash and inside the door trims. Bose supply the sounds and smartphones have a wireless charge pad. Metallic look trim complements and contrasts with Nappa leather, embossed black cloth, or cloth and leather trimmed pews for a higher quality, more luxurious feel.

The new Sorento is based on Kia’s new third-generation ‘N3’ midsize SUV platform, providing superior space for people and cargo through more intelligent packaging. That platform is classified as a large car platform for Australia, by the way. The result is one of the most versatile and spacious cars in its class. It also allows a new range of engines including hybrids to be fitted to the engine bay. A PHEV, or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, will also be available.

“Smartstream” is the name given. It will be a 1.6L turbo petrol engine, with a 1.49 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and 44.2 kW electric motor. The new platform has the battery pack located under the floor below the front seat passenger. Peak torque is rated as 350Nm. Power is rated at around 170kW. Part of this power comes from Kia’s new Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) technology. This works on regulating valve opening time according to driving conditions, instead of operating on a fixed opening time. This boosts performance at low-to-mid engine speeds by between 2 and 3%, and enhances fuel efficiency by up to 3%. A diesel will be available for European markets and is currently yet to be confirmed for Australia. Transmission for the hybrid is a six speed auto and an eight speed for the diesel.

The new chassis has given more cargo space as well. Kia says an increase of 32% for the seven seater version and with all seats in use, up to 187L or 179L for the diesel or hybrid versions. There is also extra head, shoulder, and leg room. There’s more slide room for the second row, with an extra 45mm, and the third row armrest now has a smartphone tray.

Details and pricing will be confirmed closer to the expected release date.

2020 Nissan Patrol Ti: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Nissans largely overhauled Patrol. The big machine has two models, a refresh inside and out, and comes only with a petrol V8. That’s an interesting move given its legendary competitor, Land Cruiser, is diesel V8 only now. Patrol has Ti and Ti-L as the models available. There’s a distinct sense of which market this car is intended for and it’s not millenials or baby boomers…We pilot the Ti for a week.

How Much Does It Cost?: It’s cheaper than what you may think. $75,990 for the Ti and $91,990 for the more upmarket Ti-L. They’re the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail price. The Nissan website at mid-March 2020 says $85,606 as a starting point on a drive-away price, with the Ti-L from $102,646 drive-away.

Under The Bonnet Is: a massive 5.6L V8 producing 298kW and a hefty 560Nm of torque. That latter figure comes at 4,000rpm but there is no lack of urge below that. Exploit that urge and you’ll easily exceed the quoted (combined) figure of 14.4L/100 from the 140L tank. On our typical suburban drive loop it’s been hovering around 15.5L/100km. There’s a simple reason for that. Tare weight, the weight before adding passengers, fuel, etc, is a whopping 2,715 kilograms. That’s marginally heavier than the Land Cruiser with a diesel engine.Not unexpectedly there is no manual transmission, rather Sir or Madam can specify a seven speed auto or…a seven speed auto. It’s cogged perfectly to deal with the rev ranges for peak power and torque. And for those that can afford the petrol, towing is 3.5 tonnes.

On The Outside It’s: Big. The proverbial block of flats on wheels, to be precise. You step up and across to the seats, and it feels as if the head is ten feet above the surrounds. The external revamp has the front end virtually brand new yet, oddly in our opinion, doesn’t have the Nissan face as seen on the company’s other vehicles. That means no angular headlights and chromed Vee grille. Actually, that’s not quite true. There is a Vee but as it has to spread across a wide space it’s nearer a U with a flat bottom. Overall width is 1,995mm with a height close to that at 1,940mm for the Ti. Add another 15mm for the Ti-L. Length? 5,175mm and a wheelbase of 3,075mm. Wheels on the Ti are 265/70/18 with rubber being Bridgestone’s Dueler.The restyled front lights are the same basic shape as the chromed Vee (or U), flipped ninety degrees though. LED powered they make for a clean white light and crisp amber indicator. The rear lights are redesigned and have a classy look. The body itself is squared off, blocky, a three cube design if you will. It’s an imposing sight especially when coated in a deep Hermosa Blue.

On The Inside It’s: As roomy as you’d expect from the exterior dimensions. And not only is there plenty of centre row leg room, (yep, that’s right, centre row) it’s an eight seater. That in itself is unusual given most vehicles of the sort pack seven. And it is is with the Ti-L, by the way.The seats are leather clad but neither heated nor vented. For a premium vehicle and priced accordingly that’s a shocking oversight. The next hit to the nerves is the realisation that digital radio is not supplied in the Ti either. In order to source a digital station one must use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Or Bluetooth streaming. Otherwise there’s old school AM/FM, and a CD player. That’s in keeping with the woodgrain trim that is inserted into the two arches ahead of driver and passenger. It also emphasises a little more the sense of marketplace the Patrol Ti has in mind.

For the driver it’s a pair of analogue dials in a binnacle that has the tabs for accessing the various information sets. However the screen used is a tiny one and in black and white, not colour. That’s a complete 180 degree switch from expectations.The starter button is high up on the left side of the steering column, and easily spotted. That’s a good sign. The layout of the buttons for audio and aircon are easy to read and follow. The design and layout shows thoughtfulness here as it’s elegant and smart. The 8.0 inch touchscreen is similarly planned with good layout, a map screen that reads like the “old” paper versions, and a 360 degree camera display that’s crisp and clear. In the centre console is the drive mode selector. There’s a specific on-road tab, along with Sand, Snow, Mud, and a jog switch for low and high range. Hill Descent Control is here also.Although the audio system in the Patrol Ti is not DAB, it’s better than good enough. There’s enough low and high end to ably complement the mid-range vocals. The aircon is the same. The four vents up front had backup with a centre and rear seat vent system, and there are separate controls for the centre seat passengers, meaning an all-round balance is easy to achieve.

Room wise, well, that massive body and wheelbase ensure plenty of head, shoulder, and leg room for the first two rows, with the third row perhaps a compromise for the legs. Due to the ride-height, 273mm by the way, passengers step up and there’s no need for anyone under six feet in height to duck the head. That extra height and wheelbase allows for a departure angle of 26.3 degrees and an approach angle of 34.4 degrees.What About Safety?: Heated wing mirrors are a smart safety choice for cold days. Tyre Pressure Monitoring is standard and a full suite of other features such as Intelligent Emergency Braking, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Intelligent Cruise Control and Intelligent Lane Intervention add to the package. Lane Departure and Blind Spot Warning shake hands with Intelligent Blind Spot Intervention.

On The Road It’s: A sheer experience, an expression of what was expected didn’t eventuate. The Patrol has double wishbone front and rear suspension, but it’s the addition of Nissan’s Hydraulic Body Control that makes moving the Patrol Ti around in a suburban environment a far better than expected experience. To say it’s nimble is an understatement. Yes, it has a big turning circle but it’s not a “heavy” car to drive. The steering is as light as a system in a car half the size, the ride quality on tarmac, its natural home, is excellent, and acceleration is surprisingly rapid.

It’s expected that a four wheel drive capable vehicle would be spongy, roly-poly, and soft in the absorption. The Patrol Ti is the complete opposite. It’s tight, and one could equate the ride to almost sports car like, such is the tactile feel the driver experiences. Handling is set so the mass, and it’s noticeable in some circumstances, feels less that what it actually is. It was on wet roads that the front end felt as if it may nose away, even with that off-road suitable rubber. That was when that mass made itself felt, and on one particularly notorious downhill left-hander, the superb brakes were utilised to ensure just the right velocity was driven at.Getting the Patrol Ti underway is as easy as blinking. The usual start procedure of foot on brake, press starter has a quick whirr of the starter and a whiiish as there’s an injection of fuel. There’s a muted but noticeable V8 rumble from both ends. Engage Drive and a gentle squeeze has the machine slide away without fuss. Need to get a hustle on? No problems here. The engine and transmission mesh perfectly, and the 100 number appears in a time that has to be somewhere around the six second mark.

Around town it’s a quiet experience, and one easily controlled by the gentle press of either pedal. The brakes, as mentioned, are superb, and allow a finely tuned judging of where the pedal needs to be in relation to hauling up 3,000 kilos. That light steering is a miracle worker in tight spaces such as car parks for shopping centres, and the thought quick driveline makes it easier to readjust when a second in/out to correctly align is needed. And that body control means that it’s stable, confident, sits flat where it should.We regret that circumstances precluded a proper off-road test. We’ll take it as said it would be fine.

What About Warranty And Service?: 24/7 roadside assistance is part of the warranty package. There is capped price servicing for the first six which are required at every 10,000 klicks or six months. The rate ranges from $376 for the first to $860 for the fourth. Nissan now offers a five year and unlimited kilometre warranty.

At The End Of The Drive. The 2020 Nissan Patrol Ti’s revamp makes a blocky and solid machine look less intimidating that what it could be. The changes to the front end particular visually remove what the mind perceives as mass and heaviness. It’s also a far more elegantly styled front end to boot. It’s in profile that a true sense of its “bigness” reach out and slap the eyeballs. Then there’s the opening of the doors and seeing that TARDIS like space whilst realising it’s roomy because it’s big.What came as a pleasant and welcome surprise was just how easy it was to drive. Yes, there were times where an eye on the mirrors or cameras were required thanks to the length and cornering requirements, but there’s some serious hustle, some adept handling, and that background V8 tone to tickle the eardrums. For us, the lack of DAB audio isn’t a deal-breaker but it’s a surprising omission, as were the seat heaters/vents. The woodgrain trim isn’t to everyone’s taste either. And the monochrome driver’s info-screen is at odds with the rest of the presentation too.

Our lasting impression is that the Patrol Ti is not a vehicle for millennials, nor is it one for baby boomers. It gave us an impression that it’s one for people that live in rural areas and have a certain amount of income, to be polite. Although it proved it can live in the urban jungle, the Patrol Ti, like Land Cruiser, is better left to roam the wild outside of cities. More on the 2020 Nissan Patrol can be found here.

2020 Toyota C-HR Koba Hybrid: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Toyota’s C-HR. It’s a five door SUV/hatchback styled machine and complements the RAV4 offerings nicely. In late 2019 the two tier range was given a light refresh and now offers a hybrid drivetrain. That, however, is only available in the top of the range Koba, the best seller by the way. The entry level is either a 2WD or AWD, with the Koba adding the Hybrid 2WD as well. It’s a car that Toyota has built to a market and succeeded well in that respect.

How Much Does It Cost?: The range starts at $29,540 plus on roads. The Hybrid Koba starts from $36,440 plus ORC. In basic yellow the C-HR has a driveaway price (at the time of writing, March 2020) of around $33,185. Move to the Koba Hybrid with metallic paint and black roof, and we’re looking at $38,700.

Under The Bonnet Is: A 1.8L petrol engine and battery pack. The C-HR’s entry level has a 1.2L turbo four. Transmission is a Constantly Variable Transmission, with a low range style gear shift change via the drive selector. The petrol engine is rated as 72kW on its own, with the electric part supplying 53kW. However they’re downgraded to 90kW when combined. Peak torque is 142Nm. Economy, says Toyota, is rated as, on 91RON fuel, 4.3L/100km for the combined cycle. We achieved a best of 4.6L/100km.On The Outside It’s: A nosejob, headlights, tail lights, and new wheels. You’d need to side-by-side the former and current models to really pick the exterior differences. One that is visible is the change to scrolling indicators, not merely flashing. The Koba supplied had the black roof which minimises the almost hunchbacked cockroach look it has in profile. The Nebula Blue is a deep, rich, metallic shade and highlights the sharp creases on the front and rear doors plus really emphasises the big wheel arches. Rubber is Bridgestone Potenza’s 225/50/18 wrapping machined black painted alloys. The tailgate is manually operated and the space saver spare is placed under the cargo floor. There’s a smallish 318L here with the second row seats up.On The Inside It’s: Subtly different here too. The touchscreen in the C-HR Koba is larger, up to 8.0 inches from 6.1 inches. Unusually there is no DAB audio but Toyota has added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is in line with (our guess that) Toyota is marketing this car for a certain group, a group happy to use technology that is handset based, either single or a couple, or a couple with a small child. Call it a gut feeling on that point.Otherwise it’s virtually unchanged. The Koba has leather trimmed seats, with minimal electric adjustment for the driver. There is plenty of piano black plastic in the centre console and centre of dash where smartly laid out aircon controls reside. The driver’s display incorporates, oddly, a G-Force meter along with power generation/distribution, expected range, consumption and more. The roof has the same embossed lining and the door trims are black plastic and charcoal cloth.The interior packaging is such that the rear seats sit higher up than the front seats. The rear door’s creaseline rises sharply, and with darkened glass it makes for a somewhat claustrophobic experience for rear seat passengers. babies, toddlers, small children would have no issue though.On the Road It’s: A typical CVT for driving, a decent chassis for the ride, and sorted well enough for the handling. The CVT saps power initially and with the hybrid system the engine kicks in at 20kph, just like the other hybrids in Toyota’s fleet. It will, however, get up to around 50kph before the petrol engine assists if using a very gentle right foot. Where Toyota excel in hybrid systems is the smoothness in switching between the engagement of the petrol and electric drives. Sink the slipper and there’s virtually no sense of anything mechanical moving with or against something else. Even at the nominal cut-in point of 20kph there’s a faint sense of something changing in the engine area but it’s so well modulated for most people the change wouldn’t be noticed.Highway driving showcases the best of the hybrid drive. It’s quiet, unobtrusive, and smooth in how it delivers to the front wheels. The dash display has Eco, Charge, and Power rather than a rev counter, and in cruise mode the needle hovers between Eco and Charge. Acceleration is enough for those that don’t expect sports car performance and it’s quick enough to suit those with some sporting pretensions. Thanks thanks to the on-tap torque an electric motor has and it ably backs up the petrol engine’s performance.

The engine revs easily but noisily, and perhaps the engine bay needs extra insulation. Watching the charge icon from the corner of the eye is enlightening too, as it dances between battery and engine power. Cruise along and the battery may be the primary source. Make a pass and watch the icons change as the petrol engine feeds power to both wheels and battery. the speedo needle responds in kind, and backing off the throttle sees the power needle gently sink back into Eco.

Steering is light enough to be twirled with one finger however there is also enough weight when required to give a sense of feedback. A sense only as it’s an isolated, numb, wheel otherwise. That’s in contrast to the adept suspension in the C-HR Koba. For all but the more unsettled surfaces the Koba does a decent enough job, and again won’t upset anyone other than its target market. And of course the brakes are spot on, as they should be for a hybrid system’s regenerative capability.

What About Safety?: Toyota’s Safety Sense package is standard across the range with Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam, All-Speed Active Cruise Control and Pre-Collision Safety system with pedestrian detection. There is Forward Collision Warning, Brake Assist and Autonomous Emergency Braking, plus Rear Cross Traffic and Blind Spot alerts. Along with a reverse camera there is also a Panoramic View mode for the Koba. Airbags number seven and for the family there are three anchorage points.

What About Warranty And Service?: Five years and unlimited kilometres as standard for the warranty. An extra two years can be supplied if the car is serviced through a dealership. Do that and Toyota will cover the battery for up to ten years. There can even be seven years roadside assistance. Servicing is up to five years depending on model.At The End Of The Drive. We’re of the opinion that Toyota’s marketing team and their R&D team sat down at lunch one day and thrashed out a car that would appeal to the masses. But the masses would be of a certain age group and lifestyle. We’re talking a group born in the 1990s, single or a couple, and with either no children or a toddler, no older. Why? The C-HR Koba Hybrid isn’t a big car, will seat no more than four and with an enclosed style rear passengers would be non-adult.

With app connections for audio, rather than a DAB tuner it caters to the tech-savvy, and allows a broader range of sourcing music and navigation applications. It’s a green car with a hybrid drive system and it’s economical to run as well, another appealing factor.

Dynamically it rides and handles well enough to deal with people that will readily admit to knowing little about cars and see the C-HR as something a little out of the ordinary.

Make up your own mind by taking one for a test drive and checking it out here.

2020 Toyota Supra GT: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: A car that is heavy with legend and officially reborn, for the Australian market at least. Toyota’s Supra was last available only in Australia as a special import with limited numbers, however the fifth generation is a “properly approved” model and developed with markets such as Australia in mind. There are two trim levels, GT and GTS.

How Much Does It Cost?: Our driveaway price starts from $91,640 for our location. That’s in plain non-metallic red. Go for the pearl white as supplied and that jumps to $92,165. The Recommended Retail Price is $84,990, and as prices state by state vary thanks to dealer and government charges, check out the Toyota website for your location’s pricing.

Under The Bonnet Is: An engine that continues the legacy. It’s a 3.0L straight six with twin-scroll turbo, and it’s got some serious mumbo. 250kW and 500Nm with the latter available over a broad 1,600rpm to 4,500rpm range. There’s some contention, though, as Toyota haven’t elected to use an engine from their own catalogue. And in honesty, it’s a bit of a storm in a teacup as Toyota don’t manufacture a straight six, so BMW was called in. There’s more than a few hints of that brand’s DNA in the bodywork, interior, and the car’s heartbeat. The transmission is an eight speed auto, and when warmed up, allows a 0-100 time of 4.4 seconds. VMax is limited to 250kph.Incredibly it somehow produces those numbers using standard 91RON unleaded, and produces a combined fuel economy of 7.7L/100km. Our best was an incredible 6.3L/100km. This was on a run from our HQ to the home of Australian motorsport, Mt Panorama and back. What was noticeable was the starting expected range figure and the expected range on return. In real terms, we managed to travel 300km and see an expected range change of just 120km.

On The Outside Its: Shorter than it looks. It’s just 4,379mm in length, but an overall height of 1,292mm makes it look longer, especially in the pearlescent white the review car had. It’s wide too, with 1,854mm overall, whilst the wheelbase is 2,470mm.There’s some BMW hints, particularly around the rear. Think Z4 and the upturned bootlid spoiler, a svelte and curvaceous rear, a double humped roof, and long nose in proportion to the rest of the body. There’s a sine wave line that starts at the base of the deeply scalloped doors, heads rearwards to form the broad rear wheel arches, and goes horizontal to form the tail light clusters. The long nose has a gentle and increasing radius curve from the base of the windscreen to form a broad snout, including an almost F1 style nose cone. There are plastic faux-vent inserts in the front and rear guards, bonnet and door skins. They’re not airflow positive, as in they have no actual holes for flow. Both ends have black diffusers, with the nose emphasising the F1 styling by blacking out the centre section under the nose to highlight a pair of angles airfoils.Wheels are 18 inches in diameter and have ultra sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber. Profile is 255/40 and 275/40, front and rear. During our time on the road, the whole package proved to be an eyeball swiveller, attracting positive attention everywhere the Supra GT went, including a couple of thumbs up from pedestrians and truck drivers alike.On The Inside It’s: Snug, efficient, and somewhat 1990s, all at the same time. It’s a strict two seater, with absolutely no storage space other than a pair of console cup holders, door bottle holders, and a cramped cargo area with 296L. It is a sports car, after all. There’s some visual reminder of that thanks to a carbon-fibre look inlay in the console itself. Aircon controls are minimalised, as are the headlight controls, oddly placed as buttons above the driver’s right knee.A push button for Start/Stop is hidden somewhere above the driver’s left knee, there are a pair of paddles on the steering column for manual gear selection, and the console houses a dial for accessing information on the smallish touchscreen. The layout isn’t instantly user friendly and on start-up, will not move from an initial driver warning screen until a OK button is tapped.
Buried within the menus are options for car settings where a driver can select suspension, steering, and engine modes, along with audio and navigation. A Sport mode button changes the engine and transmission settings, plus opens the exhaust system for that extra rumble and snap/crackle/pop.

Behind the beautifully supportive, heated, seats is a strut brace that provides extra body rigidity. This takes up a little bit of room and also makes reaching rearwards into the cabin somewhat awkward. To access the cargo area there is a button in the driver’s door and a tab in the hatch itself. The low overall height also makes entering and exiting the Supra GT a little difficult for those not as flexible as others.Ahead of the driver is a dash screen that looks lifted from a 1990s design. It’s not a modern look and is at odds with the car’s ability. The defining feature is a rev counter dial in the centre, leading off to the right like a keyhole. There is quite a bit of wasted space in this area, with a small LCD screen showing limited information on the far right, and effectively only which gear and drive mode right in the centre.The audio system is loud and clear, operated via the touchscreen, yet there is a strip of station storage buttons on their own above the aircon buttons and below the centre air vents. This is spite of the steering wheel audio selection buttons.

On The Road It’s: A revelation. Firstly, there’s that sledgehammer engine. 500Nm across a rev range that most drivers wouldn’t exploit in normal usage makes for an incredibly tractable driveline. The engine fires into life at the press of the starter and settles quickly into a quiet thrum. The eight speed auto needs some time to warm up in order to achieve maximum smoothness. When cold it’s indecisive, hesitant, jerky. On song it’s razor sharp and millimetre perfect in its crisp changes.The steering is the same. Although weighted to the heavy side, the rack is ratioed to a two turn lock to lock, meaning a bare quarter turn has the front end responding rapidly. The broad rubber, unfortunately, brings in a phenomenon known as tramlining. Anything in a road’s surface in the direction of travel that resembles a rut, a gap, a tramline, also grabs the front end and steers it where the ruts head. The rear end isn’t left out, with a few noticeable hops and skips on broken surfaces.

We took the Supra GT on a run out to Bathurst and a couple of laps around Mt Panorama. On coarse chip tarmac there’s considerable road noise. The newer and smoother tarmac reduces that considerably but there’s still considerable audio jam. The ride quality in Sport mode is jiggly, bouncy, and there is just enough compliance in Sport mode to ensure teeth aren’t shaken loose.

Hit the Sport button in the console and this opens up the exhaust’s throats. There’s a subtle change to the change of gears, but the more noticeable change is the soundtrack. There’s now the rasp, the crackle of the overrun as gears change on deceleration. Standing start acceleration is stupendous, and the rev range for those torques also means rolling acceleration is as easy as thinking about it. Look, squeeze, warp speed.It’s this kind of engine delivery that is, unfortunately, very necessary for Australian roads given the generally average driving standards allowed to pass as safe driving. On the overtaking lanes and still well within the posted limit, the Supra GT proved that a car of around 1,800kg will take those 500Nm and put them to appropriate use, moving past the line of slower vehicles almost as if they didn’t exist. Naturally, this kind of forward moving ability needs stoppers to suit. With 348mm amd 320mm discs front and rear, and a pedal calibrated to move with a breath and tell you how many microns of steel are on the disc’s surface, safe stopping is guaranteed.

It’s this part of the drive experience that showcase the engineering ability and power/torque delivery perfectly. As tractable as the Supra GT is for around town running, the highway is a better place to exploit its mightiness, and then there’s the economy. With the powerhouse in cruise mode, it equals the more passenger oriented cars for fuel usage.On the public road that is Mt Panorama when it’s not a motorsport weekend, the Supra GT can be eased through the super tight and falling away from under you section just after passing through Skyline. The posted limit is 60kph, and the Supra is simply unfazed by that requirement. The torque is more than sufficient to haul the car upwards along Mountain Straight just as easily as it does on a flat road. It’s unflappable here and in day to day driving, making the Supra GT one of the best all round sports intended cars we’ve tested.What About Safety?: It is, as the Americans like to say, loaded for bear. Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, Reverse Camera with Back Guide Monitor, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, plus Adaptive LED Headlamps and Adaptive High Beam. There are seven airbags. The Forward Collision Alert system was jittery, with a couple of warnings related to parked cars on corners, not moving traffic.

Warranty And Service?: Capped price servicing and a five year warranty. Information on those can be found here.

At The End Of the Drive. Toyota’s marketing research team are worth every cent they’re paid. Like almost all of the cars available from the Japanese giant, the Supra is a car for a market. I’m not in that market, but by no means immune to the Supra GT’s allure and beckoning 3.0L finger. It’s a performance powerhouse, a superbly tuned chassis, has a cabin that says sports car (bar the retro driver’s display), and positions itself as a more than worthy successor to the legend and history of Supra. Check it out for yourself here.

2020 Volvo S60 Momentum: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: A newly added car to Volvo’s distinctive sedan range. There are three models: Momemntum, R-Design, and Inscription. Each has their own body tweaks and the R-Design has an optionable hybrid drive-train. We spent an enjoyable week with the entry level Momentum.

How Much Does It Cost?: the car supplied was in Ice White non-metallic paint. Volvo quotes the S60 Momentum as $54,990 plus on roads, and the car reviewed had the Technology Pack. This is $3,000 and includes Graphical Head-Up Display, 360 degree Camera, LED Headlights with Active Bending Lights, and Ambient Interior Lighting.Under The Bonnet Is: A turbocharged, petrol drinking, 2.0L four cylinder. It’s an AWD chassis and an eight speed auto directs drive to those four corners. 187kW and 350 Nm are the power and torque figures, with the torque on tap between 1,500 to 4,800rpm. Peak power is a typical 5,500rpm delivery and gets the S60 Momentum to 100kph in 6.4 seconds on its way to an electronically limited 240kph. Economy is quoted as 7.9L100km, and on our 70/30 urban/highway cycle we got to 8.2L/100km. The tank is 60L meaning a cruising range of over 700km is entirely possible.

On The Outside Is: An evolution of its bigger sibling, the superb S90. In profile it’s a beautifully balanced look, with the wheels having short overhangs and a cabin setting the driver slap bang in the middle of the length. The cabin itself is highlighted by the narrow window-line in comparison to the door side height, and bears a resemblance to the cabin line of Subaru’s pert Impreza sedan. The Ice White paint, by the way, is part of a palette of 13 colours. That white paint almost hides a scallop with a delineated lower section. It’s longer than it appears at 4,791mm, thanks to a height of just 1,431mm, and rolls on a wheelbase of 2,872mm. The vehicle driven had Michelin Primacy rubber on diamond cut alloys. Size was 225/50/17.

The rear lights are double “C” LEDs with bootlid inserts, sitting above a pair of chrome tipped exhausts. The front lights, as mentioned, are bending and LED powered. Naturally they include the “Thor’s Hammer” combined driving and indicator lights. The lower intake has a pair of sharply raked extensions that join the lower section of the bumper and form a surround for the small fog lights.On The Inside It’s: Got Volvo written large in luxury, features, and comfort. The Tech Pack has the aforementioned HUD and it’s intuitive to look at, as it should. The heart of the S60’s information provision is via the console touchscreen. At 9.0 inches in size and in high definition, it’s good to look at and, thanks to a simple swipe, simple to use. Sub-menus incorporate the controls for the driver’s dash (which is a full width LCD screen), the information shown in the screen, aircon settings, climate control, audio, satnav and more. It also houses a complete user manual as well.

The seats are supple with proper leather. Of course they’re heated, but again, non-vented. The driver has power operation and a dual memory position. The steering wheel is easily adjusted for reach and rake making for a very comfortable driving position. unfortunately for the rear seat passengers, there are no airvents from the rear of the centre console. There are a pair of 12V sockets and USB ports however. That centre console holds the rotary, not push, Start/Stop button and a rotating knob for the three drive modes which are Eco, Comfort, and Sport.There is no shortage of room too. The cargo area has a minimum of 392L to start with. Front leg room is huge at 1,074mm, with the rear seat 895mm. 1,425mm and 1,384mm are the shoulder room measurements and head room is also decent at 1,019mm and 945mm. Trimwise it’s full of soft touches and the Momentum has classy dark grey inserts in the dash and doors that contrasts beautifully with the alloy door handles.

What About Safety?: The driver’s dash screen shows a comprehensive list of safety features on start up. Direct from Volvo is this list: City Safety: Pedestrian, Vehicle, Large Animals and Cyclist Detection, Intersection Collision and Oncoming Mitigation with Brake Support; Steering Support; Intellisafe Assist: Adaptive cruise control including Pilot Assist, Driver Alert; Lane Keeping Aid; Adjustable Speed Limiter function; Oncoming Lane Mitigation; Intellisafe Surround: Blind Spot Information (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert (CTA).Front and Rear Collision Warning with mitigation support; Run-off road Mitigation; Hill start assist; Hill Descent Control; Park Assist Front and Rear; Rear Parking Camera; Rain Sensor; Drive mode with personal power steering settings; Emergency Brake Assist (EBA); Emergency Brake Light (EBL); Frontal Airbags, Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) with airbags in front seats, Inflatable Curtains and Whiplash Protection System; Belt Reminder all seats; ISO-FIX outer position rear seat; Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS). We’d say that about covers it.
On The Road It’s:
Pure driving pleasure. Mostly. The front end is low and the plastic sheets underneath would scrape on driveways, speedbumps, five cent pieces…It’s a small niggle but a niggle nonetheless. However, the rest of the package is admirable. There’s a typical turbo lag, yes, a hesitation to engage first gear, yes, but they’re only at the beginning of the drive.

The torque comes into its own rapidly, and easily spins the eight speed auto through its ratios. The AWD and fat rubber take the torque and put it to good use, with plenty of traction. It makes curves straighten out and highway cruising as relaxed as it can be. A steering weight that is the automotive equivalent of Goldilocks’ porridge, an en pointe brake system and feel, and a ride quality that’s taut and terrific without compromising bump absorption endow the Volvo S60 Momentum with road chops to be admired. In essence, it’s a sporting sedan that doesn’t bignote or brag about its ability.Need to get past the slow driver in the wrong lane? Take a breath, you’ll need it as a press of the go pedal reels in the far distant horizon in a time measured in eyeblinks, not seconds. The numbers on the dash change rapidly. And there is never a hint of issue as the whole chassis comes together to heighten the experience. It’s as safe gold inside Fort Knox, (Goldfinger not withstanding) and has enough yahoo in it to scare a few more pricier sports cars.What About Warranty?: Five years and 100,000 kilometres is the warranty as of March 2020. Volvo also offers service plans, with the S60 starting from $1,595. This covers the first three years or 45,000 kilometres.

At The End Of The Drive. In a world seemingly overwhelmed by SUVs, Volvo, like its European counterparts, continues to offer sedans. The S60 is a standout in the sedan field, with excellent dynamics, a superb driveline, and plenty of class. It’s roomy, comfortable, and delivers what it promises. And for a buyer, that means getting a car that won’t disappoint in almost every aspect of its presence. Everything you need to know about this winner is here.

Subaru Unveils Updated Impreza and Hybridised XV & Forester.

Niche filler Subaru has finally joined the hybrid family. The XV hatch and Forester now have that propulsion as an option. They’ve also updated their Impreza sedan and hatch range. For the XV there will be one variant and in hybrid form only, whilst the Forester will offer two, in L and S AWD specification.

Forester will run the familiar 2.0L horizontally opposed four, as will the XV. Transmission remains as Subaru’s quite well sorted CVT. The Hybrid system has been dubbed “e-Boxer”, with a small capacity lithium battery linked to the petrol engine in a method called Motor Assist. There will be three drive modes available: Motor Assist EV driving, Motor Assist electric (EV) + petrol engine driving, and Petrol engine driving.

In pure EV mode it can reach speeds of up to 40 km/h before switching in the petrol engine. Economy, says Subaru, is down to 6.7L/100 from the 48L tank. Fuel is 91RON. That’s down from 8.1L/100km. XV Hybrid has an improvement of around 14% improvement for the urban cycle, and upwards of 7% for the combined. Forester’s improvements are 19% and 9% compared to the previous 2.5L variants.

Power is rated as 110 Kilowatts at 6,000 rpm and 196 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm with the electric energy part offering 12.3kW and 66Nm or torque. Naturally the electric system features regenerative braking energy harvesting. The battery is integrated into the floor and located where the spare wheel once resided. The petrol engine has Subaru’s AVCS, or Active Valve Control System. Pricing for the trio is: $35,580 for XV Hybrid AWD, $39,990 for Forester Hybrid L AWD and $45,990 for the Hybrid S. Those prices are manufacturer’s list prices.

Subaru’s X-Mode, for soft and wet weather road driving, has returned. This is again a switch operated drive mode, and will show on the driver displays to indicate its engagement. Forester Hybrid S also has Subaru’s SI Drive system, where different driving modes, Intelligent and Sport, allow for some driver tailoring. The touchscreen is 6.5 inches in L, 8.0 inches in S, and features DAB, Apple and Android apps, driver’s kneebag, and Subaru’s renowned EyeSight system.

Orders are being taken however the initial allocation has been presold, with May the current ETA for new stock.

The bodies for both have been slightly tweaked, as has the Impreza sedan and hatch. All models have been given a restyled grille, with the front bumper and fog lights changed as well, plus there are new alloy wheels. The tail lights for the hatch have been given a smokey glass appearance. Also, all Imprezas now have SI Drive.

The range remains as a four tier model. The entry level 2.0i model starts from $23,740 and $23,940 for sedan and hatch, whilst the 2.0i-L starts from $25,860 and $26,090. The 2.0i-Premium is $28,390 and $28,590 with the range topper 2.0i-S at $31,160 and $31,360. Again these are manufacturer’s list prices.

Apart from the looks there has been tweaks underneath for a better ride and handling package. Premium receives Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert plus Reverse Automatic Braking and Front View Monitor. The S gains front and side camera monitors, along with an auto dipping passenger side mirror when reversing.

All cars have a standard five year and unlimited kilometre warranty. Contact Subaru to book a test drive.

Ford Updates Their Escape Plan.

Ford’s entry into the mid-sized SUV market, Escape, has been given a new model and some updates to keep it fresh and in line with the competition. The 2020 Ford Escape line-up has a higher level of standard equipment, and is priced accordingly. There is a mix of all wheel, front wheel, and PHEV, being Escape FWD, Escape ST-Line FWD and AWD, plus a PHEV option, with the new Vignale in FWD and AWD. Deliveries are scheduled to start from Q3, 2020.The pricing matrix is thus: 2020 Ford Escape with a 2.0L EcoBoost engine and FWD, starts from $35,990 (manufacturers list price). Escape ST-Line from $37,990, with the AWD starting from $40,990. The PHEV starts from $52,940, with Vignale FWD and AWD from $46,590 and AWD from $49,590. Across the range is a 2.0L Ecoboost petrol engine, delivering 183kW and 387Nm, with power going to the tarmac via an eight speed auto. The PHEV, Ford’s first vehicle of this type in Australia, has a 2.5L petrol engine with an Atkinson Cycle design. On the electric side is a 14.4kWh lithium-ion battery which produces 167kW. Fuel economy is rated as an incredible 1.5L/100km. On a purely battery driven cycle, the range is up to fifty kilometres.

Standard equipment in the entry level makes for solid reading. 18-inch alloy wheels, a chromed five bar grille up front, LED headlights and tail lights, with an integrated spoiler on the tailgate’s top, whilst the 2.0L dumps via a pair of chrome tipped exhausts. A colour palette of 11 colours allows for good individualisation.

Extra standard equipment reads like a technology who’s who: push button start/stop, wireless smartphone charging pad, DAB audio via an 8.0 inch touchscreen, Ford’s SYNC3 command system with Apple and Android apps, voice command, and reverse camera. Sensors front and rear plus a handy window open/close command from the key fob add some real distinctiveness. There is also Ford’s bespoke FordPass Connect with app connectivity. This covers services that are designed to simplify the ownership experience. The app allows for roadside assist access, service scheduling and checking of service history plus, for the PHEV, charge station locations and on-the-fly charge level checking.Safety levels are comprehensive. The Escape list is: Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Evasive Steering Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Dynamic Brake Support, and Traffic Sign Recognition. Adding to the list is Blind Spot Detection (BLIS), Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Centring. whilst the driver has an Impairment Monitor System. Tyre Pressure Monitor, Adaptive Cruise, and an Emergency Assistance (000) call system round out the standard list of safety in the entry level. Extra safety is well packaged too: six airbags, seatbelt reminders, and ISOFIX seat restraints.

Warranty is five years and unlimited kilometres, with servicing being a 12 month or 15,000 kilometre cycle. A and B logbook services for the first four years/60,000km are set at a maximum of $299 per service. Ford’s Service Benefit, which includes a loan car, auto club membership, roadside assistance, and satnav updates, are also included.

Interior space has been increased. The new Escape is longer by 89mm, wider by 44mm, and the wheelbase has an extra 20mm. Shoulder room is up by 43mm, whilst front seat hip room is increased by 57mm. The second row, which can be slid forward or back, is up by 20mm and 36mm respectively. Overall height has been dropped by 20mm yet headspace is increased by 13mm up front and 35mm in the rear. Weight has been decreased by up to 90kg and torsional rigidity is up by 10%.ST-Line is the sports oriented model. Bespoke 18 inch alloys and grille, a sports style rear bumper and side skirts, plus a lowered suspension add to the look. A larger rear spoiler sits up at the roof’s rear and also brings black detailing inside and out. The roof rails are black which complements the headlining and belt mouldings. The driver has a 12.3 inch sports themed cluster and the steering wheel is a flat-bottomed item. A hands-free tailgate, front heated seats and Ford’s tech pack can specified as an option. The latter includes: Head Up Display, “matrix” headlights and an adaptive lighting feature. The Vignale gains an impressive list over the ST-Line. Advanced keyless entry starts the party, whilst the driver has a heated tiller and Head Up Display. Both front seats have ten way power adjustment and are heated. The second row has heating for the right and left seats whilst the rook shine sun in thanks to a panoramic glass insert. The tail gate is powered and hands free. Wheels are 19 inch alloys, with 20 inch alloys as an option. Headlights are self leveling LED quad-projector style and will bend in cornering. An exclusive colour, Blue Panther, is available to order.

PHEV, or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, gains a partial leather trim, 10 speakers for the sound system, and a ten way powered driver’s seat. The ST-Line package is available as an option, with hands-free tail gate, front heated seats, and the tech pack.

Contact your Ford dealer for information.

2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The 2020 specification Cherokee Trailhawk from Jeep. It slots into the mid-sizer SUV market and in Trailhawk form comes well loaded with standard equipment. It’s the second generation of the overhauled model from a few years ago. Trailhawk tops a four model range, with Sport, Longitude, and Limited the other available options.

How Much Does It Cost?: $48,450 plus on roads. Head to the Jeep website for your local pricing due to varying state charges.

Under The Bonnet Is: A free spinning but thirsty 3.2L V6. Peak power of 200kW and peak torque of 315Nm can’t alleviate the fact that the around town economy figure of 11.5L we finished on is something to consider. That’s from a 60L tank, by the way. Jeep, however, quotes a higher figure for the urban cycle of 13.7L/100km. Tare (dry) weight is 1,889kg and that peak torque is at 4,300rpm meaning it needs a rev to get underway and haul that mass along.The run to highway speeds is quoted as 8.3 seconds. Stop/Start technology is on board and kicks in just when it’s not needed. There is a button to disengage. Emissions are a bit high too, at 236g/km of CO2. Drive is via a nine speed auto driving the front wheels with on-demand and electronic lock for the rear. Inside and located next to the passenger’s right knee is the drive mode dial including Snow, Rock, Mud, and Low Range. Towing is rated as 2.2 tonnes.

On The Outside It’s:
A lightly reskinned of the version launched in the mid 2010s. The main visual difference is the integration of the formerly separate eyebrow LED driving lights and a lower mid-mounted headlight. It’s immediately a cleaner and frankly more normal looking design, and from a safety aspect it’s better as far too drivers were using the running lights as headlights. All lights are LED too. The tail lights have been mildly worked over and it’s more a change to the framework in the cluster. The fuel access is on the right rear quarter and is capless, meaning the door is the cover. Body coloured mirror covers and window surrounds add to the imposing presence.

With the Trailhawk featuring some bespoke exterior detailing such as a bonnet blackout and black painted 17 inch alloys (with Yokohama Geolander 245/65 rubber), plus a different bumper to the other three models with each end featuring hi-vis red tow hooks, the Diamond Black paint and blacked out sections give the Trailhawk a menacing on-road presence. There’s added ride and overall height (1,724mm vs 1,680mm/1,683mm for Sport, Longitude & Limited) and that different front bumper shaves 6mm from the overall length of the other three, down to 4,645mm. The Trailhawk also has a slightly longer wheelbase, with 2,720mm as opposed to 2,705mm for the Sport, 2,707mm for the other two.

There is a massive difference between the approach and departure angle for the Trailhawk as well. Departure is 32.2 degrees. Approach is 29.9 degrees. Breakover is 22.9 degrees. The Sport is just 24.6, 16.7, and 17.7, with 25.0, 18.9, and 19.5 for Longitude and Limited. Wading depth is 480mm, with the Sport not rated, and 405mm for the two L plated cars. To ensure minimal issues when getting dirty, there are bash plates for the fuel tank, front suspension, transmission, and the underbody.On The Inside It’s: A gentleman’s club in ambience. Soft, pliant, red stitched premium cloth and vinyl (leather is standard in Limited) seats with heating and (huzzah!) venting, and a two position memory for the driver’s pew. Tilt and fold rear seats lead to a cargo area that’s accessible by a powered tail gate. Oddly, the interior button to lower the door is placed on the left hand side of the pillar, not in the base of the door like…..everyone else.

There’s a boomy Alpine sourced sound system complete with nine speakers with DAB. It’s crystal clear when it counts and can be wound up quite a bit, with the 514L cargo area mounted sub/bass unit kicking some serious low end notes. Music can be streamed via Bluetooth, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The highlight of the view from the front seats is the 8.4 inch touchscreen with Jeep’s UConnect interface It’s the typically brilliant layout and information is easily made accessible, as are controls for items such as climate control and the seat venting/heating.The driver faces a mix of old school analogue dials with a metallic silver look to the centre LCD screen and it’s 7.0 inches in size. Steering wheel mounted tabs scroll information up or down, with each sub-menu numbered. There is a compass direction icon on display all of the time as well. Classy and smart? Just a bit. This is complemented by the soft touch materials covering the dash and doors, plus the elegant sweep to the lines of the dash itself.

Entering and exiting the Cherokee Trailhawk is mostly ok. There is a need to just dip the scone as one enters though. There’s plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room once in up front, with rear seat leg room adequate for most but if you’re six feet and above then it may be a mite squeezy.Ancilliaries such as 12V sockets are found in the cargo and centre console section. USB ports are available x 2 for the rear seats and console bin. There is a small net on the passenger side front console, a couple of nooks at either end, and cup holders. Each door has the now ubiquitous bottle holder. Switchgear has auto headlights and wipers too. Sunroof? An option. Full sized spare? Standard.On The Road It’s: Surefooted and confident in handling. Brakes need more immediate feedback. There’s a numbness to the feel and it’s not always intuitive enough in its travel to gauge how much pressure is needed versus distance to a point to stop. The steering is the same, with the front drive bias having a isolated and heavy touch to the beautifully leather bound tiller. Back to the handling and it’s a decently friendly machine at its worst, an excellent highway cruiser at best. With the drive mode left in Auto, that front wheel drive is noticeable. Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, and Rock are the other options. Unfortunately the schedule clashed with what Mother Nature had in mind and we were not able to venture safely to our normal off-road test track for the sake of prudence.

It takes some effort, thanks to the high rev point for torque and that two tonne mass, to get going, hence the fuel drinking figure. The 3.2L engine found across the Cherokee range is a free spinner and has a rasp that lends a bit more sport to the experience. The nine speed auto is great, but needs to warm up. From Drive to Reverse, there’s a pause, like a dual clutch auto thinking about just when it wants to engage. It’s not always crisp and swift either, with some dithering and indecision initially.There is a manual engagement of gear changing, with a simple pull on one of the paddle shifts mounted on the rearside of the steering wheel giving the driver more control. Shifts are marginally improved, and a gentle hold of the right paddle returns control back to the computer.

When everything has reached the optimal temperature, whether literally of figuratively, it’s a smooth talking, come hither looking, thing and wafts along on most surfaces without a hiccup. There are some road surfaces that get noisy but overall it’s beautifully damped, beautifully controlled, and for a vehicle rated to deal with some serious off-road work, it’s got some serious on-road chops. The front end is built on a well proven combination of McPherson Strut and long travel coil springs. This sits on a one-piece steel sub-frame which connect to aluminuim lower control arms. The rear is a four link with trailing arm setup that sits in a steel rear cradle. The stabiliser bar rear four link rear suspension with trailing arm and aluminum lateral links connect to aniIsolated high-strength steel rear cradle, and coil springs.It handles being pushed into corners well enough. There’s minimal scrub on the front tyres, and understeer is almost non-existent. The Cherokee Trailhawk is an easy throttle steerer too in the curvy bits.

What About Safety?: Sensors front and rear. Parking assistance. Seven airbags including kneebag. The rear camera has dynamic guidelines. Forward Collision Alert, Pedestrian Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Active Front Passenger head restraints also make for a high safety package with a four star EuroNCAP rating. Then there is the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Roll Over Mitigation, Rear Cross Path Detection and Blind Spot Alert too. The forward collision system has a camera mounted in the lower section of the front bumper and it’s a bit trigger happy. Some corners would set it off thanks to cars being sensed on the entry apex.Warranty And Service?: Five years warranty or 100,000 kilometres. There is also five years capped price servicing, for which your Jeep dealer can confirm for you.

At The End Of the Drive. Jeep have ironed out most of the electrical bugs that plagued the brands a few years ago. We were on the receiving end of that with two products, one which resulted in the vehicle concerned left for a tow back to the pickup and return point of the time. This particular Cherokee exhibited none of the electric gremlins and aside for the recalcitrant cold auto, performed as a new car should. New because there was less than 2,500 klicks on pickup.

It felt solidly screwed together, the proverbial “tight as a drum”, with no squeaks or discernible movement of things that shouldn’t. For a car that has a well proven off-road pedigree, on road it simply plants and goes. As a family vehicle too, it does that job admirably. However, no diesel option and a thirsty petrol V6 engine don’t make the appeal level go any higher. Overlook those and there’s pedigree, history, and a decent enough drive package to suit most. Organise your own test drive to form your own opinion and check out which of the Cherokee range may suit you best.