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

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

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

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

Is It Worth Holden On?

A recent post to Private Fleet’s facebook page has given rise to plenty of passionate, robust, thought provoking discussion. The subject? Holden and the new Commodore.

It seems there’s a couple of factors that have sparked what appears to be mostly “against” comments; largely, the fact there’s no V8 and that it’s front wheel drive. Yes, we know there’s the all wheel drive, but that’s only available with the V6. Only occasionally does the fact it’s no longer a locally manufactured product crop up, such as this: ” Doesn’t matter if designed in Australia, what mattered is assembled in Australia so that Australians have jobs. Is it any wonder our welfare bill is going up. Now most of car price goes overseas just like a lot of our income tax does.”

And that is a fair point. Harking back to our interview with then head of PR at Holden, Sean Poppitt, he’d said that workers were being as much assistance as possible to find different roles or be given a payout once manufacturing ceased. But it did mean that the manufacturing side of the skill-set workers had has either been lost or relocated to an area that’s not using that skill-set.

But back to the car itself. It seems that many feel that their loyalty has been questioned by Holden’s decision to shut shop and continue with the nameplate. Again harking back to Poppitt, he said that the reason the name was kept WAS because of feedback from Commodore owners.
Loyalty can also give rise to misguided faith, as seen here: “Serves them right, close Australian factories and still have the hide to call imported cars a Holden and think we won’t notice.” This could very easily be seen as overlooking all BUT the VF Commodore from Holden were and had been imported cars for a couple of decades at least, as opposed to the 1970s with Toranas, HQ through to HZ Kingswoods and the Commodore VB and VC being built here.

Then there’s the look of the ZG. Somewhat smaller overall than the VF, with looks more similar to Japanese maker Mazda’s 6 than the bloky, broad-shouldered, VF, there’s been comments about how it doesn’t look like what we’ve had over forty years: “The car is ugly and does not resemble a Commodore and the once loyal consumers are turning to superior Japanese and european manufacturers to get what they want.”

Let’s look at this in a bit more detail. The VB through to VK were effectively the same, before a re-skin for the VL. Then there was the complete overhaul for the VN, a bare facelift for the VP, before the VR and VS. Along came the VT and VX, then the facelifted VY and VZ. Where could we say the VT resembled the VB or the VY resembled the VL?

Regardless of the opposing points of view it’s clear that a substantial amount of disquiet is out there in regards to the ZG Commodore. As the four words used sagely go: only time will tell.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport Manual and Auto.

Suzuki has had a long history with small hatches that have sporting pretensions. Every iteration of the Swift is warmly received, warmly reviewed and leads to high expectations for the next model. And so it was for the 2018 version. The 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport also…sports…a couple of noticeable changes.Suzuki have gone to their parts bin and slotted in their poky 1.4L BoosterJet four cylinder petrol engine. With 103kW and 230Nm it doesn’t sound like there’s a lot of oomph, but remember it is just 1400cc in size. There’s the added extra of a six speed auto to back up the venerable six speed manual. In a car weighing around the 1000kg mark the engine and transmission combination adds up to be a sparkling performer. At $25490 and $27490 plus ORCs it’s well priced and comes with a decent range of standard equipment as well.The exterior of the Sport goes a step further than the already worked over Swift. There’s faux carbon fibre side skirts, a solid looking rear valance panel, and a jut jawed front end with more in your face attitude than the standard. Even the rear door handles are buried in radar absorbing black and mounted high in the C pillar. It’s about the same physical size as the previous model, with a total length of just 3890mm, width of 1735mm, and a petite 1495mm high, yet weighs less as well (970kg manual, 990kg auto). With a squat stance thanks to the low height and broad for its size track, the Swift Sport looks able to take on any tarmac surface.The Sport’s suspension is hard. Harder in the auto was the feeling, but not by much over the manual. It sometimes felt as if a rear corner was being raised when punted through some corners in both. However it also meant that on tight and twisting roads the Sport can be absolute thrown hard into them and will sit flat and confident. The steering is an extension of the driver’s arms too, with instant response and the front tracking almost like a military helmet and nose-gun system. The superb 195/45/17 rubber contributes to that utter adhesion too. Brakes? Like the steering, they’re an extension. Think how much stopping you want, press, and receive.If there’s a weak link in the drive train it is, unusually, the manual. The clutch pedal feels too soft, with no real resistance, and the gear selector is the same. It’s rubbery, doesn’t feel as if the gate mechanism has the schnick schnick expected. Oh, it does the job well enough if it’s not rushed, as unhurried, fluid, motions will select the gear all the time, every time. It simply doesn’t feel sporty.The auto, gawd help me, is the complete opposite. Decisive, clear in its intent, assertive, smooth, and delivering on every promise, the auto is pretty much everything a driver of a sports oriented hatch could want. The gear selector has no manual option too, that’s left up to the steering column mounted paddle shifts. Power down, and it’s bam bam bam. Just beautiful.Inside there’s a pair of snug sports seats up front, standard seats at the rear, devil red trim contrasting with the charcoal interior plastic. The driver’s dash dials are a bronzed hue and glow a deep red at night. Smartly, for a right hand drive market, Suzuki have fitted the Start/Stop button up on the right side of the dash and in clear view of the driver’s eye. The touchscreen is standard and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.Being a small car it’s no surprise the cargo space is on the petite side at 265L, and with the rear seats folded, increases to a more useful but not huge 579L. There’s small numbers for the engine, but good small. Although the fuel thimble is just 37L the consumption stretches that size. I finished on 5.9L/100 km, and that’s just about on the money from Suzuki’s quoted fuel figure of 6.1L/100km combined.There’s a good safety package on board however there’s no driver’s kneebag, autonomous emergency braking, and NO parking sensors at all. Not a one. Nor is the Hill Start Assist in the manual yet the auto receives it. Ummm, ok then.At The End Of The Drive.
It’s truly rare, as a supporter and firm believer of a non-self shifter, that I will prefer the auto option. But here, in the 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport, it’s a no brainer. 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport specs is where to find out more.

2018 Kia Rio SLi: Car Review.

Kia‘s evergreen slightly bigger than small car, the Rio, has had a mild revamp inside and out for 2018. LED DRLs, digital radio, a reprofiled front bar are the obvious changes. And priced from $22,990 RRP plus $520 for premium paint, it’s not a bank buster either.It’s the solid, trusty, dependable 1.4L MPI petrol engine we’ve come to know and….love is far too strong a word. Like sounds fair. There’s 74kW of peak power and 133Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. On their own, they’re reasonable numbers from a non forced induction 1.4L. However there’s also the same four speed auto that continues to hold back the Rio. Surely by now there’d be something in the Kia/Hyundai parts bin to change to a five or preferably six speed auto. The fall-off between gears is just that little bit too much for a car in the late part of the 21st century’s second decade. In shorter words, it’s time to modernise.Although the engine itself is a willing revver, spinning easily through the range in Neutral, third and fourth showcase just how much they hold the 1.4L back, and also just how much more economy could be wrung out of it. Kia’s figures say 6.2L per 100 km from the 45L tank on regular ULP. With 110 km/h seeing 3000rpm on the tacho, those extra mid range cogs would could see the ratio in the final drive changed and drop the revs to a potentially more usable and frugal number, especially given the kerb weight of 1162kg for the auto. The auto will also tow up to 800 kilograms.That said it’s a lovely little driver with slightly heavy steering, a somewhat softish road ride which may have been down to the 195/55/16 Kumho rubber, however it’s stable enough in its handling. Freeway conditions have the petite 4065mm using its 2580mm wheelbase absorbing most of the irregularities and the well damped McPherson strut front is more than capable of dealing with anything that causes bump steer. But neither is it a sports car, and the slowish steering rack reflects that.The interior sees the information and entertainment seven inch touchscreen move from an integrated into the dash location to a standalone unit mounted high in the dash itself, much like the new Stinger. Charging for phones etc comes courtesy of a pair of 12V sockets up front, a USB port, and one for the rear seat passengers. There’s a sunroof , UV protected glass for the front passengers, alloy sports pedals, cloth covered seats with a higher grade material (man made leather with perforations) than the S and Si, and what Kia calls a “super vision instrument cluster”. Nup, neither do I.Dash plastics and trim are a blended mix of soft touch plastics and a gunmetal hue to the dashboard strips. If anything, it misses out on the current design ethos of a sweeping arch that brings the door trims into the dash as one curve. Bottle holders number four, one in each door, the touchscreen in the Si and SLi has DAB and satnav as standard, plus both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard across the three trim levels. Bluetooth is, of course, standard and there’s address book and media streaming capability.There’s plenty of room inside, with Kia’s typically efficient packaging providing space for four comfortably, enough front leg room for people up to six feet tall, however the rear seat leg room becomes tight when the seats are pushed back.Outside it’s a redesign for the front and rear, with the tail light cluster bringing in the neon light look. The front has a solid bar framed in chrome in the Schreyer nose grille, reprofiled headlights with circulat LED driving lights, globes in the lower corners, and the roofline has been flattened for a sharper look. The hatch door is more upright and allows access to a 325L or 980L cargo space with the rear 60/40 split fold seats down. The SLI has 16 inch wheels, with the S and Si rolling on 15s. The test car was clad in Signal Red, with Clear White, Silky Silver, Platinum Graphite, Aurora Black Pearl, Smoke Blue, and Mighty Yellow available.There’s Kia’s standard seven year warranty which is bolstered by a high standard of safety across the range. Hill Start Assist, reverse parking guidelines, and six airbags are standard but there’s no autonomous emergency braking or a driver’s kneebag. Kia also supply a space saver spare, not a full sizer.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Rio really is a car with pootential but that four speed auto is an anchor. With other manufacturers using a CVT or changing to a turbocharged three cylinder with a broader range of torque, the Rio, as good a car as it is, is in danger of being left behind. The update outside and in do refresh the Rio into a handsome looker however a savvy driver will overlook this. Details of Kia’s updated Rio are here: 2018 Kia Rio range

2018 Holden ZB Commodore RS: Private Fleet Car Review.

In November 1948 a car was unveiled in Australia by the then Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, in front of 400 guests. Called the 48-215, marketed simply as the “Holden”, and popularly known as the “FX” the car had a 45kW 2171cc straight six and had a design from America’s Chevrolet. Thirty years later, in October 1978, Holden showed off for the first time the Opel Rekord and Opel Senator based VB Commodore. It’s now a nameplate that’s firmly entrenched in the annals of Australian automotive manufacturing history. In late 2017 Holden ceased manufacturing and unveiled its Opel sourced new Commodore. With a nod to history, its designation is ZB.It’s fair to say that it’s a car that has divided followers of the Holden brand, primarily due to a change in platform. It’s no longer available in rear wheel drive, now being front and all wheel drive. There’s no ute, nor is there a V8. There’s a turbocharged four cylinder petrol and diesel engine, turbocharged V6 engine, nine speed automatic transmissions, a slightly smaller body, and it’s a hatchback. Yes, a wagon, known now as the Tourer, stays. And our familiar designations have largely disappeared. It’s also highly likely that the ZB will be, in effect, a stand alone model in the history of Commodore, as Opel was bought by Groupe PSA in 2017 and with a mooted change to the platforms used by that organisation.

I, with a decades long personal association with Holden going back to the early 1970s and a HT Kingswood, became possibly the first fully independent car reviewer to drive the ZB Commodore, in second level RS sedan/liftback trim. Priced at $37,290 RRP it’s available at a driveaway price on promotion at just $38,990 for the liftback. The V6 AWD platform and front suspension are also available as an option at $42,490 driveaway. It’s fitted with the turbo four cylinder petrol, with 191kW of peak power and 350Nm of peak torque between 3000 and 4000 rpm. The nine speed auto is the first time such a transmission has been seen for Commodore and it’s a pearler. Combined with a instantly responsive throttle, it switches between gears as cleanly and as smoothly as one could wish for. In fact it’s so smooth as to be forgotten that it’s there. Holden’s engineering team have spent a great deal of time calibrating the two and it shows. There’s no indecision, no dithering, it’s always in the right gear for the rev range.

The engine fires into life at the push of a button, and is also able to be remotely started via the key fob. It’s smooth, quiet from both inside and outside the cabin, and sips 95RON unleaded at a quoted figure of 7.9L/100 km for the combined figure. AWT matched that quoted figure. Although it’s now a front wheel drive vehicle, the car tested was only barely perceptible in most driving conditions to be feel as such. Seat of the pants 0-100 km/h times, without testing, feel sub eight seconds. And although peak torque starts at 3000rpm, there’s more than enough on tap below that to take advantage of the extra gear range.The ZB body shape is one familiar, in a way, to Aussie buyers thanks to other brands having similar profiles, but it’s not once seen in a Commodore until now. The RS in sedan form has a slightly more sporting look than the entry level LT. There’s a reprofiled front bumper, a grille that’s possibly overdone for Aussie tastes, 18 inch alloys (wrapped in grippy Continental rubber) instead of 17s, and of course, that liftback in a very coupe’ style. Coated in Mineral Black, with red metallic flecks that pick up the sun at certain angles, it highlights a slippery shape.Compared to the superceded VF11, the ZB is measurably smaller. Compared to the Vf it’s 74mm shorter at a still long 4899mm. The height is 1455mm, width is 1863mm (excluding mirrors) as opposed to 1899mm. The wheelbase is 86mm shorter at 2829mm however kneeroom stays the same and headroom is only 13mm less. Cargo room is also only slightly less, five litres down at 490L in total with the seats up. However the 60/40 folding seats do offer up extra space over the VF11 when flat.It’s identifiably corporate GM inside yet familiar at the same time. Climate control has the same light aqua hued LEDs inside dials that are inset in their own nook under the audio controls, the driver’s info screen is instantly recognisable in its monochrome presentation with ino accessed via dial and button on the indicator stalk. There’s a single USB port in there and a pair at the end of the centre console for rear seat passengers. The gear selector is framed in chrome whic catchs the sun and reflects directly into the driver’s eyes. Audio wise there’s Bluetooth streaming but you’ll need to go up to the VXR, RS-V, and Calais to get a DAB tuner and satnav. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard though. Features such as wireless smartphone charging for compatible smartphones and Head Up Display are found further up the chain. The touchscreen is a seven inch unit, down an inch available in the previously mentioned spec levels. But although the driver’s seat is electrically powered, the passenger seat gets only fore and aft, and seat back tilt, adjustment. Nope, no height adjustment, and as the seats are low anyway, passengers have already commented about how they’re not able to see clearly forward.Actual interior trim is pretty good, as is fit and finish, however the glovebox’s clasp on the left hand side doesn’t close as clean;y, requiring an extra push to seat it firmly. There’s no noticeable switch inside to release the hatch, with anyone wishing to open it needing the fob to press on the Holden logo at the rear. The Tourer (wagon) models have a foot operated opening process with a sensor embedded underneath with an added extra. A light shines the Holden logo downwards so there’s no mistaking where the foot should be waved.Where the 100,000 plus kilometres of testing have really paid off is in the ride quality. Knowing the ZB would be greeted with varying degrees of (lack of) enthusiam, it’s a hugely important part of the equation. Simply put, the ride is as good as you can get in competence, comfort, sporting, absorbption, feedback, dynamics. It’s a lighter steering feel, understandably, compared to the VF2 with the 3.6L V6 weighing more than new turbo four, but its so well calibrated that it’s almost instinctive.Throttle induced torque steer is virtually eradicated and it really needs a heavy foot from standstill to feel anything like it. Slow speed twirling has the nose follow as if laser tracked, freeway speeds (with 100 km/h turning the engine over at just 1250 or so) requires less steering input to move around. Damping from the McPherson strut/four link suspension is superb, especially over the more unsettled tarmac sections of Sydney’s road system. Float is non-existent nor will the ZB follow ruts or feel as if it’ll snap back. It’s possibly, in ZB four cylinder trim, as good a chassis for a off-shore developed but locally fettled car as we can get.In a technical sense there’s plenty to like. Stop/Start is standard, and unlike the recently tested Equinox, can be deactivated. Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Low Speed Autonomous Emergency Braking is standard, as are Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Front/Rear Parking Assist. Add in items like Pedestrian Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, and Following Distance Indicator and it’s clear that the ZB Commodore is taking the name to a higher level.

With an introductory driveaway price (March 2018) of $38,990 Holden are also enticing new buyers with a seven year warranty and roadside assistance package.

At The End Of The Drive.
There’s absolutely no doubt that this is possibly the most important car in Australian motoring in decades. It needs to be right and here’s why. As part of an interview I did with Holden’s former head of PR, Sean Poppitt, one of the questions asked was, naturally, why stay with the Commodore nameplate. Poppitt’s response? “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.”

And to some, therein lies the rub. Holden conducted exclusive and extensive product reviews, inviting those that were Commodore owners to drive sessions. Feedback was asked for, weighed, used. Many, many, many detractors of keeping the name would, ore than likely either not have driven the ZB nor, likely, would take up an offer to do so. Quite simply. More’s the pity, and more fool them. Admittedly, AWT’s exposure has been solely to the ZB RS four cylinder sedan, however if this as an entry level car can impress so well….Holden, you know where to find me to provide more review cars.

Here’s where you can go to find and more and, importantly, book a test drive: 2018 Holden ZB Commodore sedan information

2019 Lamborghini Urus Unveiled For Australia.

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

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

With thanks to Origin Agency and Lamborghini Australia.

2018 Haval H2: Private Fleet Car Review.

It’s fair to say that the Chinese company Haval doesn’t have a widely known presence in Australia. There’s some advertising on TV in early 2018 to let people know of the four model range, including the H2. It’s not unhandsome to look at, not bad to be in, and is well priced and equipped. But yes, there’s a but….In profile there’s little doubt that the H2 is aiming at BMW, with an X1 or X2 presence. And this comes as no surprise as the designer is one Pierre Leclercq, the former head of design at…BMW. Inside it’s Range Rover’s tidy lidy Evoque, with a slightly overdone silver-grey plastic trim that won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s cloth on the seats, comfortable, but set perhaps a little too high, which also brings in the high roofed resemblance to the Beemers. It’s well proportioned, and in the test car’s pearlescent white, looks good in the drive. There’s low-set LED driving lights, LED indicators, and distinctive Haval badged four bar grill, and BMW-esque tail lights in the non-powered tailgate.Motorvation is courtesy of a 1.5L turbocharged petrol engine with a rated fuel economy for the auto of 9.0L per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. We finished at 8.5L/100km on a mainly suburban run. It does feel like it needs a bigger tank as it was on 1/4 to go with just under 400km covered. Peak power is 110kW at a typical small four 5600rpm. Peak torque is 210Nm between 2200-4500rpm. In comparison, the Holden Equinox with the same tech and capacity pumps 275Nm between 2000-4000. The Equinox tested had a six speed auto, the H2 also had a six speed auto. However there’s more to the Haval’s engine and gearbox combo than simply a comparitive dearth of torque.

It’s indecisive in its power delivery; sometimes first and second saw moving from standstill quicker than other times, particularly in a straight line move as opposed to off the line from a corner. There’s significant turbo lag at best, and a lag of urge in third or fourth in the same rev range where you’d have some pull below or above those ratios. Mash the pedal and although well within the torque band, forward motion was slower than the Titanic where she is now. Yet, at other times, the slightest touch of the pedal would see the H2 respond appropriately.

There was a mix of silky smoothness and jerkiness where it was once smooth. Not once at anything other than freeway cruising did it feel as if it was cohesive and capable of not confusing the driver. The auto has Snow and Sports modes, with Snow activated by a button in the centre console. Otherwise it’s a stand, reasonably well ratioed, six speed that shifts smoothly enough when it’s behaving itself.Inside, as mentioned, it’s not a bad spot. The dash dials hint strongly at Evoque, with a crystal look insert at every second speed indicator and brackets a colour 3.5 inch LCD screen that didn’t show speed but showed tyre pressure, instand and average fuel consumption, a layout that anyone with the Evoque would recognise, meaning its well laid out and easy to spot where things are. But…the CD/Bluetooth streaming/infotainment/non-DAB system is easily the worst we’ve experienced.

1. It doesn’t power off for something between five to ten minutes after the car powers off. Result? Flat battery. 2. None of the touchscreen tabs on the otherwise nice enough looking screen responded to touch until again after five to ten minutes of power on. 3. EVERY time the head unit was powered up it would go through a boot cycle of over fifteen seconds. This was irrespective of whether starting from an overnight off or whether you had JUST powered it off.

As a result it made using the whole thing harder than what it should have been. Changing stations had to be done using the toggle switch in the tiller and any sound settings had to wait until, like an old tube style radio, it had “warmed up”. Navigation wasn’t bad to look at but was largely rendered useless and actual audio quality was pleasing and clear enough. The sunroof is operated via an aircraft style dial above the driver and passengers head, with presets to open and close.Switchgear and build quality stood out as being of high quality for the most part, with an odd squeak here and there for a vehicle that had around 9850km or so and handback. There’s plenty of headroom as you’d expect from a 1814mm tall vehicle, plenty of legroom from the shorter than it looks 4335mm length and 2560mm wheelbase, and enough shoulder room for two kids in the 1695mm width.The H2 itself comes with a choice of two or four (all) wheel drive in Premium and Lux level trim. There’s really only the difference in dashboard trim here that separates the four levels, as 12V sockets, cargo blind, stainless steek door sill scuff plates, keyless entry/start/stop, a nice to the touch leather tiller (which features a small Audi-esque badge at the bottom), six airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, and traction control in its various forms are standard across the range. Cargo space is just big enough for a family’s weekly shop. When it comes to safety, the Haval H2 does come with an ANCAP five star safety rating.Where the H2 shone was in ride and drive quality. The electrically assisted steering was slightly numb on centre otherwise was solid in communicationand heft, The McPherson strut front and multi-link independent rear were beautifully tuned for a balance of comfort and absorption against a sporting enough ride when trialled through a well know one way downhill run, and had plenty of grip from the Kumho 235/55/18 Solus rubber wrapping the (optionally available) red painted brake callipers. There’s confidence in chucking it around thanks to a front and rear track of 1525mm/1520mm and confidence in stopping as the brakes respond to a light touch and retard forward progress…..progressively. It’s also lovely and quiet inside, to the point where a junior staffer asked “Is it electric?”

Haval further sweeten the deal with a standard five year/100,000 km warranty and five years roadside assistance, plus a capped price service offering.

At The End Of The Drive.
Haval’s H2 suffers from the death of a thousand paper cuts. Individually the niggles are mildly aggravating. As a package, as beautifully set up as a handler it is, those papercuts are enough to potentially not overcome, depending on your own driving preferences, the attractive starting price of $24,990 driveaway for the 4×2 Premium with auto. There’s no doubt at all that the indecisive driveline won’t be seen by some as a deal breaker but it’s also without doubt it needs more work. The infotainment unit needs hauling out and throwing away, and there’s any number of cars out there with far superior units.

If you look past the driveline and infotainment hiccups, you’ll be rewarded with a good looking, well handling, roomy enough for four, well priced SUV. PF is due to test the new Haval H9 in early April, 2018.

Nissan X-Trail ST-L Petrol 7 Seater & TL Diesel 5 Seater AWD.

Twin Peaks.
Nissan is in the midst of both a SUV driven renaissance and some healthy sales. The X-Trail is at the heart of this and leads in a updated Qashqai due soon. I spend some time with the (almost) top of the tree X-Trail ST-L seven seater with the petrol engine and X-Trail TL diesel AWD.The seven seater ST-L sits one level below the top of the ST ladder, with the ST-L 4WD at the peak. The TL diesel AWD caps the TL range. There’s a choice of 2.0L or 2.5L petrol engines depending on the trim level in the ST. The 2.5L pumps out 126kW and 226Nm, at 6000 and 4400rpm. There’s 130kW and a very decent 380Nm from the 2.0L diesel, at 3750 and 2000rpm.Transmission for both is a CVT (Continually Variable Transmission) and as usual seems to sap the energy of relatively low torque petrol engines. Nissan’s not alone in this. The diesel is better but suffers from lag from idle. Tank capacity is 60L each. Consumption for the diesel is rated at 6.1L/100 km and the 2.5L petrol at 8.3L/100 km, both for the combined cycle. AWT pretty much matched the petrol figure at 8.5L/100 km. That’s reasonable for both considering the 1534kg and 1664kg tare weights.The petrol’s acceleration is leisurely in comparison to the diesel, even allowing for the diesel’s time to spool up into its torque range. However, the petrol is more linear, being a constant ramp up as opposed to the slightly more “build then bang” of the diesel. And although both are front wheel drive oriented, with the diesel being a switchable to Auto or All Wheel Drive, there’s little to no noticeable torque steer. That’s impressive more so in the diesel given the rev point when max torque takes effect. Once on song the diesel is a cracker and pulls the TL nicely, if with a bit more chatter than expected from modern diesels.The transmission is programmed with seven ratios and is quite effective in engine braking on a downhill run, and occasionally needed a nudge into Sports mode in order to drop the revs and ratio down. However the diesel’s transmission had an odd whine and a feeling of being held back, almost as if the parking brake was engaged.

Ride and handling varied between the two, with the steering in the ST-L feeling overly light, overly assisted. There’s less assistance and a more weighty feeling in the TL diesel. Actual ride comfort was almost identical, with the ST-L feeling just that SLIGHTLY less tied down, with a fraction more float and rebound. The TL diesel’s suspension is built with soft- and off-roading in mind and feels more composed and confident. The undulations found in Sydney’s freeways see both damp down quicker than other SUVs, with far less float and rebound than many other brands observed. Turn in and turning circle are better than Holden’s new Equinox, meaning shopping centre carpark living will be easier. That’s the trade off for the assistance.The exterior bears almost no resemblance to the X-Trail released in the late noughties. It features the new deep V nose cone now seen across the Nissan range, and a flowing, organic, set of sinuous curves from the front to rear. There’s angular headlight clusters, ineffective indicator lamps buried deep into the bottom corners near the grille, beautifully sculpted LED tail lights and a power tail gate in the TL. The ST-L rolls on 225/65/17 rubber encased in simple yet stylish ten spoke “tuning fork” alloys, the TL 225/55/19 with black painted machined alloys.Inside it’s a mixed reception. Overall fit and finish and trim appeal was high but visual appeal is an independent thing. Although of a rounded and mainly ergonomic design, the X-Trail’s interior from the driver’s perspective doesn’t quite feel as fresh as it could. There’s a tight gap between door trim and arm when reaching down to adjust the electric seats, the seven inch main touchscreen is a dull and uninspired design for the audio (DAB only found in ST-L and TL with Bose speakers), the driver’s info screen is a sad looking mauve and dotted affair.However, they are at least easy to read and use. The reverse camera is crisp and in both had a superimposed top-down 360 degree view. There’s a glass roof fitted in the TL. Oh, and those door arms have no grip handle where you’d expect to find them, but have a handle at a difficult fulcrum point. And there’s no wireless charging pad either…The seats themselves were spot on for support and comfort in both TL and ST-L however the rear pews in the ST-L are utterly compromised by the relative lack of useable space and can’t be recommended for anything other than short journeys. There’s heating (no venting) for the front seats in the ST-L and for front and second row in the TL. The TL’s rear space features two removeable cloth covered sections that reveal a plastic tub, one thats more user friendly for dirt work and for shopping.Capacity is 445L for the 7 seater, and the TL has 945L with the second row folded flat. The popular venting for cooling cans and bottles remains, with the centre console featuring room for two items side by side. The dash in the TL is of a more higher quality to look at, especially in the touchscreen surround, and both cars have analogue dials still for the speed and rev counter.Both review cars came fitted with a towbar ($1120 option) and the ST-L with a non-descript plastic nudge-bar (a $1200 option) at the front. The TL had a switch for trailer braking fitted in a cluster near where the driver’s right knee would be to assist in towing braking. The cluster also included an Eco on/off, stability/traction control on/off, and a switch for a heated steering wheel. There’s also a button for the rear powered tail gate.There’s plenty of standard equipment in both and across the range. Auto headlights, powered mirrors, sliding second row seats, Bluetooth streaming are common throughout teh range, with the ST-L and TL receiving Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Lane Departure Warning is standard on the TL and is somewhat sensitive, seeming to go off if you looked at the white or dotted lines.At the time of writing Nissan Australia was offering some sharp driveaway deals; the ST-L seven seater was $40817 for a 2018 model and $51192 for the diesel TL AWD. Naturally, these are subject to change so please check with your local Nissan dealer or enquire via 2017/2018 Nissan X-Trail info
Warranty is the standard three years or one hundred thousand kilometres and there’s a better than others three years roadside assistance package on offer.

At The End Of The Drive.
Nissan is doing something right with the X-Trail judging by the sheer amount seen in the two weeks the model spent at AWT HQ. The pick of the two is the diesel AWD, more so for the better handling feel the chassis exhibited. There’s a better ambience in the TL’s cabin and as an overall driving experience outweighs the ST-L. Those third row seats are compromised due to the sheer size of the X-Trail (4690mm length, 2705mm wheelbase).

If your need is for a dedicated seven seater, there’s other options out there that would be better. If you need a reasonable diesel AWD there’s still plenty of choice. But you’ll also need to consider that the Nissan X-Trail has been rated as the number one selling SUV for 2017. That, on its own, says a lot.

 

 

Jaguar Ups The Pace.

Get used to that word. Pace. It’s part of the Jaguar triple play. Grace, space, and pace. There’s the F-Pace, a sharp looking four door mid sized SUV, and now there’s the E-Pace and I-Pace. Both are SUVs and both showcase what modern Jaguar is all about.

I-Pace.
It’s power to the people with the I-Pace being Jaguar’s first foray into fully electric mainstream driveability. Priced from $119000 plus on roads it showcases Jaguar’s own innovative approach as well, and here how.

ELECTRIC
With a state-of-the-art 90kWh Lithium-ion battery using 432 pouch cells, the I-PACE delivers a range of 480km (WLTP cycle). Owners will be able to achieve a 0-80 per cent battery charge in just 40 minutes using DC rapid charging (100kW). Home charging with an AC wall box (7kW) will achieve the same state of charge in just over ten hours – ideal for overnight charging.

A suite of smart range-optimising technologies includes a battery pre-conditioning system: when plugged in the I-PACE will automatically raise (or lower) the temperature of its battery to maximise range ahead of driving away.

PERFORMANCE
Two Jaguar-designed electric motors – which feature driveshafts passing through the

motors themselves for compactness – are placed at each axle, producing exceptional combined performance of 294kW (400PS) and 696Nm, and all-wheel-drive, all-surface traction.

The high torque density and high-energy efficiency characteristics of the motors deliver sports car performance, launching the I-PACE from a standing start to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds. The instantaneous performance is matched with exceptional ride comfort and engaging driving dynamics.

The bespoke EV aluminium architecture uses advanced riveting and bonding technology to deliver a light, stiff body structure. Together with the structural battery pack, it has a torsional rigidity of 36kNm/degree – the highest of any Jaguar.

The battery is placed centrally between the two axles, and as low down as possible with a seal between the housing and the underfloor. This location enables perfect 50:50 weight distribution and a low centre of gravity: together with the advanced double wishbone front and Integral Link rear axle with (optional) air suspension and configurable Adaptive Dynamics, this delivers agile handling and outstanding ride comfort.

DESIGN

There will be nothing else on the road that looks or drives like the Jaguar I-PACE. It is designed and engineered to take full advantage of its smart electric powertrain and maximise the potential of the packaging benefits it brings.
Its sleek, coupe-like silhouette is influenced by the Jaguar C-X75 supercar with a short, low bonnet, aero-enhanced roof design and curved rear screen. This cab-forward design contrasts with its squared-off rear, which helps reduce the drag co-efficient to just 0.29Cd. To optimise the balance between cooling and aerodynamics, Active Vanes in the grille open when cooling is required, but close when not needed to redirect air through the integral bonnet scoop, smoothing airflow.

Inside, the layout optimises space for passengers while sophisticated materials – including the option of a premium textile Kvadrat interior – and exquisite attention to detail identify this as a true Jaguar.

While a mid-sized SUV, I-PACE’s cab forward design and EV powertrain means interior sp

ace comparable to large SUVs. In the rear, legroom is 890mm while, with no transmission tunnel, there’s a useful 10.5-litre central storage compartment. In the rear, tablet and laptop stowage is found beneath the seats, while the rear luggage compartment offers a 656-litre capacity – and 1,453-litres with seats folded flat.

CONNECTED-CAR TECHNOLOGY

I-PACE introduces the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system to Jaguar. Utilising an innovative combination of touchscreens, capacitive sensors and tactile physical controls, Touch Pro Duo is intuitive to use.

A new EV navigation system assesses the topography of the route to destination and insights from previous journeys, including driving style, to calculate personalised range and charging status with exceptional accuracy for maximum driver confidence.

The advanced system uses ‘Smart Settings’ technology – driven by AI algorithms – to identify individual driver preferences, and then tailors the I-PACE’s driving and interior settings accordingly.

I-PACE will also launch an Amazon Alexa Skill. This means owners will be able to ask an Alexa enabled device for information held in the Jaguar InControl Remote app.

Head to www.jaguar.com.au for information.Jaguar Cars Australia

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Holden Equinox LTZ-V

As Holden transitions from a builder to an importer, an important part of the plan to do so successfully is to increase and improve its model range. The new Commodore is being rolled out, the new Astra sedan and hatch is in showrooms and the long serving Captiva is slowly being wound back as the new nameplate for the mid sized SUV takes over. Here is the 2018 Holden Equinox LTZ-V.The five model range starts with the LS. With the manual it kicks off the range at $27990 RRP (plus ORC). It’s $2000 for the auto. The LS+ is a $3000 premium over the LS and the first of the LT range at $36990. The LTZ/LTZ-V are $39990 and $46290 respectively. The AWD option on the LTZ is an extra $4300 however it’s standard on the LTZ-V and selected via a button in the front centre console.It’s a choice of two engines available. Both have a turbo and are a 1.5L or 2.0L capacity. A diesel is due later in 2018. The 1.5L will be found in the LS and LS+ with the 2.0L servicing the LT range. The LTs come with a nine speed auto as standard with the LS getting a six speed manual and auto.The auto has no paddle shifters nor side movement for manual changing. The selector in the LTZ-V has a + and – rocker switch on the top of the rather long throw selector. Holden say the Equinox should see the ton in around seven seconds. It’s slick and smooth under most driving situations however was caught out sometimes from start, with hesitant, jerking, unsure decisions initially.

The 2.0L produces 188kW and 353 torques with that peak torque on tap between 2500 – 4500 rpm. The 1.5L isn’t far off with 127kW and 275Nm. The preferred tipple of the 2.0L is 95RON. Combined fuel consumption is quoted as 8.4L/100km from the 59L tank in the LTZ-V. It’s 55L in the others. Economy finished at 9.0L/100 km.The LTZ-V gets plenty of high level tech and comes well loaded with standard equipment. However there’s really not that much to differentiate between it and the other LT models. A full length glass roof is one obvious difference. Driver friendly Advanced Park Assist in the LTZ and V is another. Auto levelling LED headlamps, LED tail lights, remote engine start (all LT models) and chrome roofrails complete that. The roof itself is moved via two tabs and they don’t have the same edge feel to know when you’ve got hold of them.The interior of the LTZ-V is a nice place with heating AND venting for both leather front seats. They look a little slabby but aren’t noticeable in lacking support. Surprisingly, gratefully, they’re there for the rear leather clad seats too with rear seat passengers getting a pair of USB ports, a 12V socket, rear air vents and a 230V socket. It’s of a different configuration than the Aussie 240V sockets so a converter for anything like a portable fridge will be needed.Full colour LCD screens greet the driver and passengers in the LTZ-V and light up in vivid blue. It’s a dash mounted eight inch touchscreen with Holden’s MyLink system on board for apps and entertainment, including a Bose speaker system to complement the DAB audio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. The layout is clean and usage is largely intuitive. The sound itself is as expected from Bose and the sensitivity of the DAB tuner is better than that found in Kia’s Stinger. The upper dash is also Euro influenced, with the sweeping arc that runs from door to door and stitched soft material look and feel. There’s even a notch in the front console for wireless smartphone charging for compatible handsets.

The smaller screen for the driver has info made available via the rubberised arrows on the right hand spoke of the heated steering well. It’s not as easy to navigate as the same found in say a Mitsubishi or Kia but does the job well enough.All four windows are auto down, however just the driver gets auto up, which in a top of the range vehicle is an odd decision. The tail gate is power operated and can be opened and closed from afar via the remote plus there’s a tailgate height dial in the driver’s door near the bottle holder. Foot operating openin is available however is intended for use when your hands are full. There’s 848L or cargo space, a hidden storage locker between the main floor and space saving spare, and increases to 1796L with the rear seats folded.

Safety levels are high across the range with Autonomous Braking from the LS+ upwards, Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning. Following Distance Indicator and Forward Collision Alert with Head Up Alert (flashing red lights) and a vibrating seat cushion that gets input from the parking sensors is there as well. There’s no driver’s kneebag however. It’s this level of tech and features that has a slightly confused feel for AWT about the range structure.Outside it’s a mix of corporate GM and hints at the Astra sedan as being the base sheetmetal, especially at the rear. The noticeable Vee shaped nose and grille structure leads to a bonnet with deep scallops either side, a crease line from the top of the front wheel arch which joins the door handles front and rear to the tail lights. There’s a difference at the rear windowline, much like Ford’s Territory, in that the thicker part of the rear window is the C pillar, where the rear door meets the end of the car, rather than above the tail lights.Ride and handling from the McPherson strut front and four link independent rear is on the slightly taut side. It was never harsh but noticeable in that smaller bumps transmitted more into the cabin. The steering has a weighty feel, with minimal understeer at speed, but somehow the steering translates into a wider than expected turning circle which makes parking and three point turns not as easy as expected. It’ll shift lanes well enough though and do so with minimal fuss.

Being a predominantly front wheel drive car there were also occasional chirps from the front tyres when launched. Corners at speed were despatched with indifference, straight line stability is spot on, and that taut suspension pays for itself when dealing with the varying surfaces of the roads travelled, with dips, wallows, undulations, almost unfelt.The rolling stock is a decent size, with 19 inch alloys wrapped in 235/50 Ventus Prime rubber from Hankook. Although city oriented they did a credible job getting through and over enough rock, sand, gravel, and mud to show some off road cred. With AWD selected, the gear selector moved into L, and Hill Descent mode engaged, the LTZ-V, although not a dedicated off roader, managed some parts of AWT’s test track with only a few moments of will it/won’t it.Warranty is starting to lag, with just three years or 100,000 kilometres on offer. There is however a choice of extended warranty, for 12/24/36 months. There’s also free roadside assist for the first year with another two for free if you get your car serviced by Holden.

At The End Of The Drive.
Holden is still in a period of shaking down what it will deliver to Australian car buyers. With the LT and LS+ to be reviewed separately, the Holden Equinox LTZ-V has made a solid enough impression. It’s the similarity of features in the LT level that may not though have many people opting for the V spec with the glass roof and AWD systems as standard. With over $7000 difference between the two these two features on their own may be seen as unnecessary enough for many to not spend that extra.

There’s no doubt though that the 2.0L engine, the transmission, and the general fit and finish is high enough to wipe away any lingering doubts. Certainly, compared to a Japanese brand that will be also reviewed separately, it’s far ahead of what that car has and in LT form will more than likely have both the features and price point that will meed customer expectations.
Here’s where to find more: 2018 Holden Equinox