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Holden: The Day For Closing Is Coming. Part Two.

This is part two of an interview conducted with Holden’s PR guru, Sean Poppitt, before the closure of Holden as a manufacturer of cars and engines in Australia.

Speaking of local products…Keeping the Commodore nameplate has seen plenty of discussion as to whether it should stay or not. What has been Holden’s reason for doing so?
There wasn’t one single thing that drove that decision…there’s a number of different factors we considered…one of the first ones was this: we went out and talked to Commodore owners. We went and talked to non-Commodore owners, and we did a really extensive market research piece, sitting down with customers and non-customers and asking that question. The overwhelming response we got was to keep the name. Of course that doesn’t take anything away from people’s right to have an opinion on this, I would wonder how many of those with a negative opinion are Holden or Commodore owners.

Two, we made sure that we were comfortable that the car did everything a Commodore should do. (It’s here that Sean’s tone changed and he became very thoughtful.) What defines a Commodore? Is it local manufacturing? You could argue that it’s that as every Commodore from the start has been manufactured here. Let’s not forget that the first ever Commodore was…an Australian modified Opel Rekord…which we built…and we’ve come full circle…taking an Opel car and making it a Commodore.One of the great things about keeping our Lang Lang proving grounds is it’s allowed us to have our engineers embedded in that program for six years. There’s been well over one hundred and sixty thousand kilometres of local testing, which has given us a unique suspension tune for every single model, a unique engine and gearbox combination which isn’t available anywhere else in the world. We’re talking the V6 and nine speed auto, the advanced all wheel drive system, the adaptive chassis. If it’s going to be a Commodore we NEED it to be able to do X, Y, and Z. This car has everything the last car did and more, but there isn’t the obvious emotional attachment and nostalgic element to it not being built here.

I don’t want at all to make light or not give the gravity that it’s due to the local manufacturing people and the passion the people had for that, and what it’s meant for this country and this brand…by every conceivable measure, the new car is a better car than the old one.
(Sean’s tone becomes lighter here). We always knew that a front wheel drive four cylinder Commodore was going to raise some eyebrows, we knew that, but the four cylinder turbo is the fastest, most fuel efficient, most powerful base engine we’ve ever had in a Commodore, so by every single possible measure that car will be better than the base Commodore we have here.Outside of your preference for front drive or rear wheel drive, for the diehard performance enthusiast we’re going to have a sports car, or, potentially, sports cars in the not so distant future. It’s important to note that it’s really only in the last eighteen months that the sales of V8s in a Commodore has lifted up so high. Over the last ten years 88% of Commodore sales have been V6s, and of that a vast majority have been SV6s.
With Opel now under the PSA umbrella, does this open up the model range available for Australian buyers?
There’s certainly opportunities. We’ve been very clear that the current Opel products that we’re taking, which includes the next gen Commodore and the current Astra hatch, there will be no change to them over the course of their projected model life. Dan Amman, who’s our global president, said, when we were in Geneva recently that there’s more opportunity for Holden, not less.

At the current time, where does Holden see itself in five years time, especially with the new SUVs and Camaro in the frame?
We made a commitment back in, I believe, 2015, that we would launch 24 new models by 2020, which effectively means we’re revamping or replacing every single vehicle in the Holden line-up. I’d also say that right now we have the best “pound for pound” showroom we’ve ever had. And it’s only going to get better; we’ve got Equinoxe coming in mid November, the next gen Commodore of course, next year there’s the Acadia, which gives us this really filled out SUV portfolio, which is obviously great for us as that’s where the market is going.

Our strength, for a long time, has been in large sedans, which is a shrinking part of the market. The growth in SUVs, we’ve been really well represented there in the past, and we’ve got Trax, we’ve got Trailblazer, and Equinoxe and Acadia to come. Even Colorado, that continues to grow, with every month the figures show an increase in sales. It’s about going where the market goes rather than hanging onto a sector of the market where clearly people have voted with their feet and wallets to not be a part of.

When we made this announcement four years ago, back in 2013 (about ceasing manufacturing), which really raised questions about what does Holden stand for, which did have a shadow hanging over the business in a way, we want to stay and remain a clear and solid number four in the market and stay on track to sell one in ten vehicles sold in this country. I think it’s remarkable, too, that in such a tough period we’re still one of the top players in this country. I also think we’ve got a rare and unique opportunity to honour one hundred and sixty years of history and heritage and make sure that Holden means as much to our grandkids as it did to our grandfathers.(It’s a huge thanks to Sean Poppitt for his time and his candid responses, and since this interview Holden has confirmed the Camaro SS will come to Australia as the “halo” car. It also officially unveiled the 2018 Commodore which, effectively, confirms for Commodore the SS badging is no longer…)

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

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

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

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

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Great Wall Steed Diesel 4×4 Ute.

Great Wall first landed in Australia in 2009. It was a range full of petrol engines and manual transmissions and sharp pricing. However, quality was questionable and it wasn’t long before the brand was withdrawn. Fast forward a few years and the Great Wall brand features three variants in a four door crew cab design, a petrol or diesel 4×2 and a diesel 4×4, priced from $29990, driveaway. Private Fleet trials the 2017 Great Wall Steed 4×4 diesel to see if things have improved.Engines wise it’s a choice of a 2.4L petrol or 2.0L diesel, as tested. Both come with a manual, being a five cogger for the petrol and six for the oiler. The transmission itself in the Steed is typical manual; a reasonably light throw, a tad notchy, a sensible gate so you’re not hunting for the slot and there’s a simple push button based high/low range system. It is, however, mated to a living definition of time travel, backwards time travel. Great Wall quotes 110 kilowatts of power and a lowish 310 Nm of torque between 1800 to 2800 revs from the two litre engine… that’s substantially less than a good portion of its competitors.In order to get the Steed underway, a little slip of the clutch and a judicious prod of the go pedal are required, needing around 2000 revs to move it along with something approaching acceleration. It genuinely feels like an old school diesel, with nothing below 2000 and a cliff fall once you see 4000 rpm. It’s breathless, ragged, lacks urge and is defintely old school with the rattle. It also means that some uphill runs require constant downchanging, providing some good exercise for the left arm. However, on the freeway, the gearing means that it will happily pootle along right in the torque band.
It’s frighteningly thirsty though, with a final consumption figure of 9.7 litres of dinosaur juice being ingested for every 100 kilometres driven. That’s not great even allowing for the 1740 kilogram weight.The steering is also…unusual. What’s called lock to lock describes the process of winding the steering wheel from one side through to straight ahead to the other side. The Great Wall Steed is something close to five turns. What this means is a turning circle a battleship would be embarrassed to show and some serious arm work to engender directional changes. A half turn sees minimal left or right movement and you need, as a result, to wind on more lock to really see anything happen.Ride quality from the double wishbone front and leaf spring rear is also iffish. The Steed is too hard when it needs to be softer, and too soft when a firm and taut ride is needed. It’ll skip sideways too easily, thumps over the small metal speed bumps in shopping centres, crashes on the front when going over the bigger speed bumps, and just doesn’t seem to track straight and true on the freeway. In all, it’s a somewhat frustrating drive and ride experience.Outside it is handsome enough, with a number of positive comments from passers-by and colleagues. In profile it’s clear the car has been sourced from an Isuzu desgn, with the nose cone being given a thorough massage to ensure a clear GW identification. There’s a solid grille with five horizontal bars, a pair of LED driving lights inserted in each far corner of the bumper assembly, headlights not unlike that found in Holden’s Colorado, indicators in the wing mirrors and sitting in the middle of the 3200 mm wheelbase a pair of sidesteps. The rear bumper stands proud of the rear bodywork and adds a bit of extra length to the overall 5345 mm. There’s an approach angle for the alloy section in the front bumper of 25 degrees and a handy 21 degrees departure angle. Towing? 2000 kilos, braked.Tyres are 235/70/16 from Giti and are of a semi off-road capable tread design. They may also contribute to the skittishness of the Steed’s handling. What may also contribute is the one tonne cargo carrying capacity tray was unladen throughout the review period. It’s an almost square tray at 1545 mm long and 1460 mm wide and there’s 480 mm of depth. The test car came fitted with an alloy roll bar as well plus the tray was lined with a polyurethane liner and fitted with tie down points.Inside is where the Steed picks up some points. The slightly flat and slabby leather seats are heated, with the driver gaining simple electrical controls to adjust their pew. The overall presence is pleasant enough, with a basic but legible monochrome info screen between the uncomplicated dials; a touchscreen that is ssslllloooowwww to load the navigation system and looks peculiarly Asian in layout and colour scheme. Audio is standard AM/FM with Bluetooth and auxiliary inputs but you can watch DVDs….actual audio quality was ok, with a slightly boomy bass at levels that would normally sound tight and punchy. The rest of the dash and console is uncomplicated, ergonomically friendly, and of a pleasing enough quality throughout the cabin to appeal to most in the market.Safetywise the Steed features a reverse camera, which didn’t always engage, six ‘bags, pretensioning seat belts, stability control, hill start assist (which holds the brakes momentarily) and, surprisingly, tyre pressure monitoring. Blind spot monitoring, lane keeping alerts and the like aren’t available. However it still rates not terribly well for the ANCAP scoring, with a two from a possible five ponts when lasted tested. Warranty is a standard three years or one hundred thousand kilometres, and servicing starts at six months or five thousand kilometres. It’ll then move to 12 months or fifteen thousand after the first service.

At The End Of the Drive.
The 2017 Great Wall Steed, on its own, would be an ok vehicle for a private buyer or even a fleet buyer. However it needs more to really be a consideration, more as in refinement of the steering ratio, more in the torque, more in the fettling of the ride. It’s inside that the Great Wall Steed scores ponts, along with a not unattractive exterior. However, if price is a consideration, as it was in 2009 when I worked at a dealership that sold Great Wall, then 30K driveaway will dull the headache.
Here’s where you can find out more: 2017 Great Wall Steed diesel crew cab 4×4

Car Review: 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige.

Suzuki continues to cement its position as a leader in the small car market by giving us an updated 2017 Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross. Although a sort of SUV look, it’s not. It’s front wheel drive only, powered by a ripper petrol fuelled turbo four. Like it so far? Private Fleet does.There’s three trim levels, simply named GL, Turbo, and Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige. The test car, the Prestige, gets the same 1.4 litre turbo engine as the Turbo, however the GL is the outgoing model. Just need to clarify that…

Anyways, there’s a simple question the S-Cross Turbo poses. Is it any good? Most of the time a simple question has a simple answer and so it is with this car. Yes.First up, there’s that belter of an engine. 1.4L. 16 valves. Turbocharged. 103 kilowatts. Torque: 220 of them between 1500 to 4000. Transmission: six pseed auto. Potency level? High. This combination is superb. It reacts to a breath on the go pedal, the gearbox is crisp, shifts quickly and without fuss, and even with traction control on, will happily and merrily chirp the front driven 215/55/17 Continental tyres. It’s a corker. Consumption in a mainly urban environment finshed on 6.7L per 100 km from the 1170 kilogram plus fuel (47 litre) and passenger vehicle.It’s a ripper handler too, with beautifully weighted steering connecting the driver to the road and providing plenty of feedback. The ride quality also is near nigh perfect with a supple mix of sporting and absorption offering an ideal combination of tautness and comfort from the McPherson strut/torsion beam suspension.Tip it into a tightening radius corner and the body will lean but ever so slightly, whilst the tiller requires minimal input to adjust to the curver coming in on itself. Pound it across the sunken and raised sections of various tarmac roads and you’ll feel a small bump before it passes and the chassis settles rapidly. Brake wise it’s spot on, with feedback straight away and a progressive travel allowing a driver to judge just….when…more or less pressure was needed.Suzuki have also performed a stunning piece of engineering upon the S-Cross, managing to squeeze apartment sized room inside a shoebox. The S-Cross is a mere 4300 mm in length, stands tallish at 1585 mm and spans 1785 mm horizontally. Inside that overall length is a 2600 mm wheelbase, ensuring ample leg, shoulder, and head room for four people, although three up in the rear seat is a touch squeezy. Luggage space is also huge at 430L to 1269L, including a double tray storage plus there’s the usual assortment of bottle and cup holders.The interior design is now familiar and standard Suzuki; there’s the four quarter touchscreen with Navigation, Apps, radio and Phone plus voice activation, traditional and eminently usable dials for the aircon, blue backlit driver’s binnacle dials and a simple to read and use monochrome screen between them. The dash and console design is a curvy design, flowing around into the doors in a clear swoop and with airvents/gear selector surround/door trim highlighted in alloy look plastic. The manually adjusted seats seats are heated (not cooled) and are a comfortable mix of leather and cloth. Of course the rear seats are 60/40 in split and foldable to allow access to that capacious and well trimmed boot. If there’s a negative it’s a small but persistent one. The setbelt straps in the height adjustable locaters were double strapped, as in both front and rear were reachable to pull over and it was the rear strap, not front, that kept getting grabbed.Outside it’s unrecognisable from the original SX4 of 2007 and noticeably different from the superceded model The tail lights have been subtly but obviously refreshed however it’s the bluffer, more “no nonsense” front end that has the 2017 S-Cross standing out. Although the headlight cluster (LED projector on the Prestige) looks almost the same, they’re a touch more angular and feature dusk sensing in the Prestige. It’s the stand out proud reprofiled nose, with an assertive chrome grille, polyurethane black running from the centre to the rear along the flanks and with a splash of metal chrome around the globe lit DRLs. There’s a crease line and stance not unlike Ford’s Escape, a 180 mm ride height, and hi-vis polished alloys to finish the visual appeal.Safety is high, as usual, with reverse camara, sensors front and rear, Hill Hold Control, 2 ISOFIX points, seven airbags including knee, electronic driver aids, even an auto dimming rear vision mirror. Servicing is capped for up to 5 Years / 100,000km and you’ll get a 100,000 km or three year warranty.

At The End Of The Drive.
Suzuki have pretty much stamped themselves leaders of the small car builders. There’s a new Jimny on the way as well to further fuel the fire of desire for this slightly quirky but nonetheless enjoyable brand from Japan. The 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Prestige Turbo builds upon their revamped range and is a genuine contender for best in class. Find out more about this pearler, here: 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige

Chalk and Cheese: New Releases From Suzuki, Toyota, and Hyundai.

As Australia heads into spring and cocks an eye towards summer, the northern hemisphere says hello to the autumn car show season. The Frankfurt Auto Show saw Suzuki confirm the additon of the Sport to its revamped Swift range, Toyota unveil a revamped Prado and in Korea Hyundao shows off the Genesis G70 sedan.

2018 Suzuki Swift Sport.
The latest generation of the Swift Sport brings with it a raft of changes which include a lower, wider stance, more aggressive styling, and a torque-to-weight ratio that catapults the Sport into true hot hatch territory.We say goodbye to the 1.6L naturally-aspirated motor and hello to the 1.4L Boosterjet turbo engine (it’s the same as found in the brilliant Vitara). It’ll be a welcome addition to an increasingly grunty line-up with a turbo now available in five models across the range. Coupled with compact dimensions and a kerb weight that’s sub one-tonne should be music to the ears of sports-minded drivers.

Swift Sport chief engineer Mr Masao Kobori said, “We know that our customers value a dynamic driving experience above everything else, so for the third-generation Swift Sport our development concept was Ultimate Driving Excitement. It’s lighter, sharper, and quicker. It’s more aggressive and emotive, but we’ve also refined the elements that make it practical to use every day—the clutch feel, the manual transmission shift throw, the seats and steering wheel. Everything that puts the driver at the heart of the experience.”

Whilst power and appearance were obvious key considerations, so too were safety and technology with the Sport featuring a Bluetooth®-compatible Smartphone Linkage Display Audio Display unit with a multimedia 7-inch touchscreen and sat nav together with advanced safety including lane departure warning, weaving alert, adaptive cruise and high beam assist.Pricing is yet to be confirmed for the Australian market; we hope it’ll be keen and competitive.

2018 Toyota Prado.
When you’re a good thing already, things tend not to get changed all that often and so it is with the Prado, copping it’s first real update in close to a decade. Of note is the ditching of the thirsty and high rev requirement 4.0L petrol V6. The good news is their 2.8L diesel stays and will be offered with either a six speed manual or six speed auto. The reason the petrol is going is simple: 98.6% of Prado sales are with the diesel. It develops an impressive 450 Nm of torque between 1,600 and 2,400 rpm when mated to the auto or 420 Nm from 1,400 to 2,600 rpm with the manual. Maximum power is 130 kW.Exterior changes focus on the grille which displays broad vertical bars with slit-shaped cooling openings finished in chrome. It’s flanked by restyled headlamps with main beams positioned inboard to avoid damage from obstacles during off-road driving. Each of the lower corners on the new front and rear bumpers kick upwards to enhance off-road manoeuvrability whilst the redesigned rear includes new lamp clusters and a smaller rear garnish plate incorporated within the number-plate surround. Inside also has the makeover wand waved: there’s a redesigned dash binnacle, dash, and switchgear; the centre console incorporates a flush-surface air-conditioning control panel with a lower profile at the top for a sleeker appearance and improved forward visibility.

There’s an increase in the presence of safety features: autonomous features – previously fitted to the premium VX and Kakadu variants – have been added to the automatic variants of the volume-selling GX and GXL grades.

Designed to help prevent accidents or mitigate their consequences, the technologies include a Pre-Collision Safety system that can now detect impact risks with pedestrians as well as vehicles.Relying on a camera mounted behind the rear-view mirror and a radar in the grille, these devices enable the Prado to operate its brakes autonomously to reduce the vehicle’s speed and even bring the car to a halt. A smart active cruise control system can also slow the car to a standstill if necessary.

Every Prado is now equipped with a Lane Departure Alert system that monitors lane markings and helps prevent accidents and head-on collisions caused by a vehicle leaving its lane. If the vehicle starts to deviate from its lane without the indicators being used, the system alerts the driver with visual and audible warnings.The range is also fitted with automatic high beam, a system that can detect the headlights or taillights of vehicles ahead and automatically switch between high and low beams to avoid dazzling other drivers. The VX grade, in addition, now features Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert -systems from the Kakadu that support safer motoring by giving the driver better real-time information about the area immediately around the car.
Pricing and confirmation of spec levels per model will be confirmed closer to launch.

Genesis G70.
The Genesis brand officially launched the G70 at the Hyundai Genesis Design Centre within the Namyang R&D Centre. Of course, strickly speaking, Genesis is a separate sub-brand of Hyundai. The G70 is set to go on sale on 20th September in the Korean market.

The Genesis G70 is an athletic and elegant luxury sedan offering a graceful and dynamic exterior, function-oriented interior with three different powertrains – the 3.3 litre V6 twin- turbo petrol, 2.0 litre turbo petrol and 2.2 litre diesel. The 3.3 litre V6 twin-turbo engine boasts an impressive 0-100 kph acceleration time of 4.7 seconds.We’ll also see some tech as the G70 also features high levels of advanced driver assist systems such as Highway Driving Assist (HDA), best-in-class safety with nine standard airbags and active hood function, and a high level of connectivity with server-based voice recognition technology.

Design wise, the G70 stamps its authority with a large crest-type grille, character lines beginning from the emblem of the voluminous hood, air intake functions, and LED daytime running lights (DRLs) express the muscularity/solidity of the car. Two distinctive linear LED DRLs on each side of the large crest grille foreshadow the future Genesis signature quad lamps. The rear also gets an update; the LED rear combination lamps, which continue the quad lamp theme, along with a raised trunk lid and compact bumper designs give the G70 a poised character. The rear lamps, evolved from the preceding G80 (known simply as Genesis here in Australia), have been stretched to the end of the rear to convey a wide and dynamic stance.

The G70 offers three powertrains – 3.3 litre V6 twin-turbo petrol, 2.0 litre turbo petrol and 2.2 litre diesel. The 3.3 litre V6 twin-turbo is at the heart of the enthusiast-focused “3.3 Turbo Sport models,” with 272 kW and 510 Nm.
G70 3.3T Sport’s dynamic and powerful performance includes 0-100 kph acceleration of 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 270 kph. Variable ratio steering and electronically controlled suspension are standard, providing agile steering response and an optimal ride and handling experience.

The G70 turbo petrol model is equipped with the Theta-II turbo 2.0 litre GDI engine, with 185 kW and maximum torque of 353 Nm (Sports package: 188 kW). The G70 2.2 litre diesel model features the R-FR 2.2 VGT engine with 149 kW and 441 Nm. It’s not yet confirmed what the Australian market will receive.

Dynamic performance features include Launch Control, there’s a rack-mounted, motor-driven power steering (R-MDPS) and multi-link rear suspension which provides precise handling and ride comfort. A proven system to improve vehicle cornering, dynamic torque vectoring system, is also on board as is mechanical limited slip differential (M-LSD) that helps safe driving capabilities in low friction road conditions such as rain, snow and ice.

Naturally the G70 brings a suite of safety programs. Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Highway Driving Assist (HDA), Blind spot Collision Warning (BCW) and Driver Awareness Warning (DAW) have been added as part of the ‘Genesis Active Safety Control’ to offer the highest level of safety and convenience in its class.Details on which specifications and the appropriate pricing will be confirmed when details become available.

(With thanks to Autonews and Newspress).

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Nissan Navara Dual Cab ST-X.

It’s a hearty “welcome back” to Nissan and what a vehicle to get things up and running. The grunty and luxuriously appointed 2017 Nissan Navara ST-X dual cab ute graced the driveway for a week.The heartbeat of the Navara dual cab range is the immensely flexible and torquey 2.3 litre diesel available across the range. Depending on which specification you buy you’ll have either a 120 kW or 140 kW variant, such as the ST-X does, but you’ll also get either 403 Nm or 450 Nm between 1500-2500. It tapers off gently from that peak and acceleration in a rolling situation is stupendous. It’s geared to sit at around 1800 rpm or so for the highway and when required, will spin easily through the rev range and get you towards the horizon rapidly. You’ll never feel as if the engine is going to run out of urge and with the (optional, as fitted) seven speed auto, it’s a seamless, ongoing, never ending wave with only the flick of the tacho really giving you any indication of what’s happening underneath.What’s even more startling about the performance is the bulk the engine must pull around. Kerb weight is just thirty kilos shy of two tonnes, and Nissan quotes a gross mass of 2.9 tonnes. However, such is the all-round ability of the engine and driveline you’d not know of the weight. To top the icing with a cherry is the fuel economy from the sizable 80 litre tank. Nissan quotes 7.0L/100 kilometres on the combined cycle, AWT finished just north of that at 8.1L/100.The transmission in the ST-X is a high and low range four wheel drive capable setup, tied to the seven speed auto. Capable being the operative word here as low range mud eating is a doddle. All but one Navara dual cab variant (the RX) has a leaf spring rear, with the others being loaded up with an S-Link rear. Combined with the standard double wishbone front, the ST-X will crawl over and through just about any surface in high and low four wheel drive. The low gear ratios allow the engine to provide peak torque during the drive, ensuring the engine is on song during off road excursions.On tarmac ride quality is pretty damned good too. It’s a touch more taut at the rear but is tied down, compliant and only occasionally jiggly. Thanks to the tough suspension requirements it’s flat, composed, irons out most irregularities but there’s a dark side. At anything other than walking pace it’ll nose wide in corners. There’s no lack of grip as such, just a propensity for the front end’s steering to not be quite as tightly wound as perhaps it should be. Otherwise it’s a ride that you can live with, and enjoy. Highway and freeway dips and rises feel as if they have the ST-X as part of the surface, as there’s no discernible suspension travel, rather a sensation of following the curvatures. There’s some free play in the steering for cornering at speed, with load felt just slightly off centre.Enjoy it you can whilst sitting in the cabin. ST-X has a nickname: “ute in a suit”; there’s leather seats front and rear, with heating for the front. Great in winter but no ventilation on leather seats during an Aussie summer is not a good idea…and there are times where cloth is preferred such as a cold morning. Oddly, for a top of the range vehicle, only the driver’s window has an auto or one touch Up/Down as well. There’s a leather trimmed tiller, plenty of storage nooks including a tray in the top of the dash (with 12V socket), and chromed and bronzed silver accented highlights throughout.The dash dials are clean to read and separated by a colour info screen, the touchscreen and associated buttons are ergonomically friendly, there’s plugs for the audio and 12V accessories , and a simple to use dial for the four wheel drive system. You’ll have Bluetooth phone and streaming compatibility, a single CD player, plus cruise control. Safety comes in the form of the electronic aids such as Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, seven airbags including driver’s knee, and seatbelt pre-tensioning, making the Navara ST-X as safe as possible.There’s ample room front and rear for the family, for head and shoulders and, importantly, leg room. What you don’t get room for, which the ST-X has in common with every vehicle of its type, is room for shopping. Yes, you do have a tray that will excel at holding tools or whitegoods or hardware, but utes aren’t really ideal for family shopping…unless you’re a family of one and your shopping is tinned food and liquid refreshment.But little of that will count when you drive the ST-X. It’s an imposing beast, with an overall length of 5255 mm, stands at 1840 mm sans roof rails and will spread itself across 1850 mm. The wheelbase is a decent 3150 mm, one of the bigger wheelbases around, and contributes to the straight line stability of the vehicle. There’s decent front and rear overhangs too, allowing approach and departure angles of over 32 and 26 degrees when off roading. And underneath, the chassis is designed to work with the engine and transmission to allow up to 3500 kilograms worth of towing with a brake equipped trailer.Looks wise the Navara range for 2017 has been sharpened up a little; the front end is more angular, more asserrtive. There’s side steps on the ST-X, and meaty Toyo A25 255/60/18 rubber on either end. There’s a reverse camera integrated into the tail gate handle as well, linking to the touchscreen inside and provides a high definition image. There’s roof rails, a chromed roll bar mounted over the tray, a polyurethane tub lining, tie down points, which makes the overall presence high on the assertive “I’ll take this chair, mate”.At The End Of The Drive.
The Navara nameplate has always been a strong performer for Nissan. And even with the rise of the SUV the Navara continues to make an impact on a tough market. With competition from Volkswagen (Amarok), Mitsubishi (Triton), Ford (Ranger), Holden (Colorado), Isuzu (D-Max), just to name a few, the Navara has held onto a good market share. The ST-X especially is one that is worthy of looking at as a top of the ladder entry. As a work ute, it’s well and truly suitable, especially for areas that require a dedicated four wheel drive system. Wear a suit? Just as capable.

As a daily driver, the willing engine, smooth gearbox, and sheer driveability make it a no brainer. It’s compliant, comfortable, easy to move around despite the size and certainly has one of the more responsive throttles around. The 2017 Nissan Navara ST-X is certainly a solid contender in a very crowded market place.Check out the details of the range here: 2017 Nissan Navara dual cab range

Holden On For The Future: Commodore VXR.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Kia Cerato Sport.

Car makers have a habit of badging a vehicle and calling it a Sports model. Holden did it with the SV6 Commodore, Ford’s Falcon XR6, Toyota with the Camry and Aurion…generally it’s cosmetic and that’s it. Kia has jumped on the sports wagon and added one to the Cerato family as the 2017 Kia Cerato Sport. It’s priced at $24790 RRP plus metallic paint (Snow White metallic pearl on the test car) at $520.Mechanically you get Kia’s free spinning two litre petrol four. It’s good for 112 kilowatts (6200 rpm) and 192 torques (4000 rpm). It’s a six speed auto in the test car. The ratios see around 2250 on the tacho for the state limit in Australia of 110 kph. Economy is claimed to be, from a fifty litre tank of standard unleaded, 9.9L/100 km for the city, a more reasonable 5.7 L/100 km for the highway, and a combined figure of 7.3L/100 km. Private Fleet saw a best of 6.2L/100 kilometres on a jaunt to the upper south coast of NSW and back.Externally you get a lithe, slippery, sinuously shaped 4560 mm long body with a solitary Sport badge on the left rear, the addition of a small bootlid spoiler above the 421 litre boot, sweet looking alloys and Nexen rubber of a 215/45/17 profile, with the overall look of a wheel and tyre combination failing to look as if they fit and fill the wheelwells. Perhaps 18s and a 50 series tyre would look more as if they’d fill the hole, but at what cost for ride quality? The Schreyer grille is a touch more upright and adds a visible extra toughness.To add to the Sport, you get a black valance for the rear bumper, globe driving lights in the front (no LED driving lights, they’re reserved for the top of the range SLi) and a number of features shared with the models either side, the S and Si, such as front and rear parking sensors, mirror mounted indicator lights, and folding heated exterior mirrors. The headlights slide deep into the fenders and have a white plastic insert that does nothing for lighting but breaks up the look to provide a bit more visual appeal. However, they’re not as sharped edged and attractive as sister car, Hyundai’s Elantra. The rear lights have also been given a slight makeover, with the look now more akin to a Euro style car.Internally it’s standard Kia; great ergonomics, clean layout and easy to read dash and console controls, cloth seats (shared with the S and covered in a harder wearing weave), a man made leather wrapped driver’s binnacle, 2 twelve volt sockets and USB, plenty of leg room inside the 2700 mm wheelbase and shoulder room in the small mid sized sedan thanks to an overall width of 1780 mm. Airconditioning is controlled by old school dials; old school they may be but there’s nothing simpler than a dial with pictures to tell you how hot/cold, how much blowing speed and where it’s going. Naturally there’s Bluetooth and a reverse camera to complement the six airbags plus there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on board.Audio and satnav are controlled via a seven inch touchscreen and it’s here where technology niggles. From Start, the screen shows a warning message and requires human intervention to agree and move forward. I’m not a fan of such a program, whereas a timed delay before reverting to the radio screen would be more appropriate. The satnav is brilliant in look and usage, showing a proper geographical perspective for the surrounding lands, and can be zoomed/expanded via the radio tuning knob on the right hand side.The driver faces a simple two dial layount, with speed and engine rev counter taking pride of place and fuel & engine temperature in two small sectioned locations to the bottom. In between the main dials is the info screen, with servicing intervals, speed, economy, trip meters and more available via the steering wheel mounted tabs. Again, typical, user friendly, human oriented Kia. The dash design overall hasn’t changed much, with the ovoid, curved, look and sweeping vertically oriented lines breaking up an otherwise somewhat slabby black plastic look.The six speed auto in the test car didn’t exhibit anything out of the ordinary nor was it the slickest, smoothest, transmission around. Hesitant and jerky sometimes from low throttle start, sometimes sweet and unfussed, barely noticeable in changes at speed, easily self changing on slight slopes and descents to holding a gear too long on a downhill or uphill run and requiring manual intervention. There’s three dive modes (Sport/Normal/Eco) and only rarely was Sport called upon for it’s quicker shifting. A mixed bag and not one of the best nor worst around and not really deserving of a Sport moniker.

The ride itself though is a delight and shows off the fettling Kia’s engineers have added. It’s well damped in the McPherson strut front/coupled torsion beam rear, with smaller lumps and bumps quickly dialled out, quick rebound from bigger dips and undualtions, however there was a sideways skip occasionally on some unsettled surfaces. The front benefits from uprated springs, adding a poise and nimbleness in turn-in.Tyre pressures were crucial, too, with 36 psi having the Cerato Sport feeling taut, grippy but also a touch skatey in tighter corners. Around 32 psi would provide the ideal balnce for ride and handling. You get a sense of agility, confidence, and tactility though, with a feeling that it’d require some serious issues to lose grip. But the electrically assisted steering is perhaps a little too eager to help, lacking real feedback and communication, with numbness on centre and an artifical weight once wound left and right plus a sense of twitchiness requiring the driver to add in minute corrections as you pedal along.

Acceleration is adequate without much sparkle, meaning a good press of the go pedal to move the 1309 kilo plus cargo is needed. Seat of the pants says around 8 to 9 seconds to 100 kph. The engine is smooth and never feels stresed as it climbs through the numbers but will sound a touch harsh and metallic as it gets over 4500.

The Cerato Sport gets the basics in electronic safety, such as Vehicle Stability Management, Hill Start Assist but being closer to entry level it misses out on Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning and the like. However there’s the embedded seven year warranty and fixed price servicing, with a maximum cost of $487 in the fourth service.At The End Of The Drive.
The cynical part of society would question adding a Sport nomenclature to a vehicle that basically isn’t. One would look for a turbo engine, perhaps a close ratio manual, a sports style front dam and side skirts. But, as mentioned, other makers have a standard car, added a bit of plastic and left the engine and transmission untouched. Kia’s Cerato Sport is pretty much this but slightly less, lacking side skirts and a definable Sport look. The cynical part of me would say that the firecracker turbo engine from the lamented Pro Ceed GT and the quad LED driving lights plus a standalone boot lid spoiler would be a look more befitting of a car to wear a Sport badge…
To make up your own mind and book a test drive, here’s the link to the 2017 Kia Cerato sedan

Kia Australia Releases Pricing For The Highly Anticipated Stinger.

Kia’s highly-anticipated Stinger performance GT will hit the Australian market with a sub-$60,000 recommended retail price. The Stinger, one of the most highly anticipated cars of 2017, will provide a top-end performer at a realistic price across the full 3.3-litre bi-turbo V6 range. With 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque the Stinger is capable of a launch control assisted 4.9 second 0-100km/h sprint and a low 13 second standing quarter.Starting at $48,990 for the S, through $55,990 for the mid-spec Si and on to $59,990 for the fully-loaded GT, the Stinger brings the style, the refinement and the power usually available only to owners with substantially deeper pockets.”It was critical for us to bring this car to as wide an audience as possible … something I believe we have achieved with the pricing we have been able to settle on,” Kia Motors Australia Chief Operating Officer, Damien Meredith said.“From the outset it was a goal to get a bi-turbo V6 into the market under $50,000. We have done that with room to spare.”Mr Meredith said the decision to announce 3.3-litre pricing ahead of the Stinger’s October arrival was to provide confidence to the substantial number of buyers who have shown faith in putting down a deposit without knowing a final price.”Almost all of the confirmed orders are for the 3.3-litre, so it makes sense to provide those customers with as much clarity as we can while they wait to take possession of their new cars.”Pricing for the 2.0-litre model is in the final stages of being settled and will be released as soon as it has been finalised. Go here to register your interest:Kia Australia Stinger registration

With thanks to Kia for images and content.

How Will The Police Force Replace Their Fords and Holdens?

We all know that the Holden Commodore has been an Aussie icon on the roads for quite a few years now.  We’ve also all seen Holden Commodores tricked out as police cars… sometimes a bit too close for comfort and sometimes as a very welcome sight indeed. If you are both sharp-eyed and lead-footed, then the sight and shape of any white Commodore of a certain age is enough to get you easing up on the accelerator and slowing down; the shape is burned into your brain like the shape of a hawk is burned into the brain of a chicken (yes, chickens actually do have brains).

It also appears that the red lion vs blue oval rivalry might be alive and well in the police force, as all the points above also apply to Ford Falcons, including the bit about the shape being burned into the brains of the lead-footed.

However, the doors of the Holden factory are closing. So are Ford’s, which means that if our police force wants to have a vehicle fleet that’s up to date, they need to look for another company.  Naturally, car manufacturers around the globe have been eyeing up the contract of providing our police cars… and not just for the honour of the job but also for the very big bucks this sort of contract would entail.

So what are our boys and girls in blue going to be driving?

Rumours are flying thick and fast.  Browsing through the Australian Federal Police and the NSW police websites don’t exactly yield a lot of information about what the new vehicle is going to be – it’s all kept very, very quiet.  However, the rumour mill has popped up a couple of possibilities that could very well be in the running for what we’ll see on the roads sporting the disco lights and with the word POLICE proudly emblazoned on the side (hopefully not pulling up your driveway when you hadn’t dialled 000).

It’s not easy being a cop car.  A cop car has to have great handling and plenty of power and torque for quick responses. It shouldn’t look ridiculous and it should have enough space for all the gadgetry that a modern cop needs. (Question: how come talking on the phone is considered distracting to the common or garden driver but communicating with dispatchers and other units while driving isn’t distracting to a cop?)  A cop car also needs to have enough space to transport the newly arrested naughty people where they can’t be a problem to the driver, and possibly enough space to carry a K-9 officer.  It also shouldn’t cost the earth to purchase or maintain, so that rules out all the fancy wheels used by the police in the United Arab Emirates.  We’re paying enough tax without that sort of expense!

The rumour mill has ground out a few possibilities for what’s going to be the replacement for the Fords and Holdens.  One very likely contender at the moment is the Chrysler 300 SRT .  One of these V8-engined sedans was spotted wearing the NSW Police livery back in May.

However, FCA Australia (the official name of Chrysler Australia) haven’t exactly been trumpeting the winning of the contract all over their website the way you think they would do if they had sealed the contract. There are other possibilities still in the running:

Volvo XC60 SUVs, which provide a bit of off-road capacity plus Volvo’s legendary safety standards, have also been spotted with the disco lights fitted.  Volvo does police cars for other countries, so it’s got a proven track record in this area.

The Kia Stinger is another hot contender and certainly has a beautifully appropriate name – what else would you use in a police sting operation other than a Stinger?  This new release V6 sedan isn’t the only offering put up for consideration by Kia, with the Sorento SUV being in the running. The Kias are hot contenders because as well as offering plenty of bang, they don’t require quite as many bucks as some of the luxury European contenders, such as the BMW 5-series.

Another South Korean in the running is the Hyundai Sonata Active , a number of which have recently been added to the Queensland police fleet, although the rumour mill has it that these needed a few tweaks to the brakes and tyres (and possibly some other tweaks they’re not telling the general public about).

Up until now, the general policy was to use locally made cars as much as possible. However, now that the local factories have gone belly up, it’s quite possible that instead of just getting one or two main marques serving as the police fleet in most states, we’re going to see a range of decent mid-range sedans, station wagons and SUVs in police livery.  Which will make it a problem for the leadfooted among us who have conditioned themselves to react to the shape of a certain model: you’ll never be able to pick a patrol from a distance…

So that’s their game!