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Why We Shouldn’t Phase Out ICE Vehicles Yet

 

Hello, I’m a mule – the very first hybrid form of transport.

In certain parts of the world – Europe, to be specific – governments have pledge to stop the sales of new cars that are powered by internal combustion engines only (aka ICE vehicles, where ICE stands for internal combustion engine).  This means that any new cars sold in these countries will be hybrids or pure electrics.

First, before we all panic and start stockpiling petrol and diesel because we aren’t ready to ditch our favourite sets of wheels yet, let’s clarify a few things.   Firstly, Australia hasn’t made any such pledge yet, although certain political parties are starting to talk about it.  Secondly, what will be phased out is the sale of NEW cars only.  Presumably, second-hand car dealers will still have ICE vehicles sitting out in the yards (possibly quite a few of them if all the ones that have been kicked off UK roads make it over here).  And they’ll still have to sell petrol and diesel to run (a) the older cars, (b) the diesel or petrol parts of the hybrids and (c) things like motorbikes that haven’t really caught onto the whole electric thing yet.

Nevertheless, I don’t really want to jump on the “let’s phase out ICE cars” bandwagon.  I don’t think we’re quite ready for that yet.

First of all, there’s the issue of range in pure EVs.  Mercifully, we now have enough charging points along the A1 highway so you won’t get stranded in the middle of the Nullabor, but even so, it takes at least half an hour to fully charge an EV.  This means that your Great Australian Road Trip is going to take even longer than it would otherwise.  Plan accordingly.  However, although the main highways around the perimeter are pretty well provided with charging points, there are bits of the country where the charging points are spaced out further than the typical range of an EV.  This is not good news for, say, park rangers, farmers and rural nurses.  The developers are going to have to really, really work hard to get better range for EVs before these groups are going to even think about buying one.  I keep getting this mental picture of some rural midwife trying to head out to some rural woman going into labour but being held up by (a) detouring to the nearest charging point and (b) waiting for half an hour to charge her vehicle.  Don’t even think about what would happen with emergency service vehicles.

I kind of hope that the Powers That Be who are going to make the decisions about our national vehicle fleet go out and spend a day riding shotgun with some of the folk in our rural communities to get an idea of the distances they drive… and at least put in a few more charging points before they decide to kit out all the nurses with EVs.  Not sure what they’ll be able to do for the park rangers.  Carrying about a diesel generator to power up a vehicle in the middle of nowhere kind of seems to defeat the purpose of promoting EVs in the first place.

Anyway, there’s another issue, and it’s one that affect those in cities as well.  Now, the majority of EVs and hybrids are smaller vehicles.  When it comes to practical commercial vehicles that your typical tradie can use, it’s a different story.  Yes, there are some great hybrid SUVs available, such as the Volvo XC90  and the BMW X5 , but these aren’t your typical choice for a tradie.  As for the Tesla X SUV…  I, for one, would start wondering how much my plumber or electrician charges per hour if I saw him/her driving around in a high-end SUV.  At least Mitsubishi and Nissan have some offerings, including a 2WD version of the Nissan Pathfinder  and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV  (which is reported to be the most popular hybrid/EV in Australia).

Your typical electrician, plumber, builder or landscape gardener usually prefers to drive a ute or van, preferably one with lots of torque to tow a massive trailer as well as lots of load space.  I know this all too well, as the other half is a landscape gardener and I’ve seen the amount of gear he carries in the trailer and carts around in various bits of the trusty dual-cab Navara ute.  Given what your typical tradie charges per hour – which has to be affordable in order to be competitive – new cars aren’t usually on the cards.  A phase-out of ICE vehicles would mean that second-hand vehicles would still be an option for your tradies… but what happens further down the track?  If nobody’s bought brand new hybrid/EV utes and vans then there won’t be any second-hand ones for your small-scale tradies to purchase.  Let’s hope that if the phase-out happens, larger operators will get themselves a fleet of hybrid utes and vans that can then go on down the line.  Either that or the banks are going to have to be nicer to owner-operator tradies so they can finance something brand new.

Tradies also clock up quite a few kilometres just around town, which means that even if pure EV commercial vehicles were available yet, your tradies would have to spend ages charging up possibly at least once a day. This means that you could be left waiting for the plumber (assuming he or she does emergency call-outs) for that little bit longer while your toilet refuses to flush and/or overflows.  Half an hour can be a long time when you’re waiting for the dunny…

At the moment, there aren’t a whole lot of hybrid or electric vans and utes out there on the roads – at least not yet.  Renault  has one electric van that’s going to arrive very soon, Haval has plans for a hybrid ute and there’s even talk about a hybrid version of my favourite tradie’s beloved Nissan Navara.  But they’re still in the future (we’ll let you know when they arrive). Even if a big construction company wanted to kit all of its builders out with hybrid or electric commercial vehicles as soon as they hit these shores, this would still be some way off.

There’s also the issue of all the investment and research into biofuels, but that’s worth taking another whole post to discuss.

In short, it’s too soon to talk seriously about phasing out ICE vehicles in Australia simply because we don’t have enough suitable new replacements for the current vehicle fleet that have the range and the practical ability of the petrol and diesel units currently available.  Although your Green Party members living in the city could probably make the switch to purely electric vehicles tomorrow and not be affected (and I hope they’ve already made the switch and put their money where their mouth is), there’s a significant proportion of typical Aussies who can’t make the switch yet and will have to stick with ICE vehicles for a while yet.  Be patient, folks.  Although there may come a day when hybrid vehicles and EVs triumph, today is not that day.

Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD and LS.

Mitsubishi have joined the ever growing band of car makers supplying a smaller mid sized SUV. The oddly named Eclipse Cross fits snugly between the Outlander and ASX in size yet packs a 1.5L turbocharged four cylinder and CVT. It’s a comfortable four seater, has a couple of nifty features inside, and comes with a cargo space big enough for a family of four’s weekend away luggage or a week’s shopping. It’s priced from the high $20K mark plus on-roads so it’s not a bankbuster either.The three model range has the LS 2WD, Exceed 2WD, and AWD. All three have the same 1.5 litre turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine that produces 110 kW at 5500 rpm and 250 Nm from 2000 to 3500 rpm, and CVT with eight steps. There’s a 60 litre tank that holds standard unleaded, and runs at a quoted fuel consumption figure of 7.7 litres per one hundred kilometres for the combined cycle. However, part of the dash display screen option list is expected range. On highway and freeway usage the range does extend and from pickup to home saw over two hundred kilometres being added.Exterior design is eyecatching; there’s Mitsubishi’s signature shield design for the front, free flowing sheetmetal for the wheel arches, and an angled scallop that reaches rearwards from the middle of the front doors that lines up the door handles. The rear is the question mark of the design but sets the Eclipse Cross apart from its competitors. It’s sharply angled from the arrow head tail lights to the roof in profile and both end lights are joined by a horizontal bar through the glass that also blocks some rearward vision. Rolling stock is standardised at 225/55/18 with rubber from Toyo being more dry land and tarmac oriented.An interior highlight for the range is the addition of a trackpad device located in the centre console. It’s intended to backup the seven inch touchscreen but in practical use, with a drag and slide and push down to enter, it’s not really that effective. The touchscreen and trackpad themselves seem to be Audi inspired, as the touchscreen is now housed in a pod that stands proud of the upper dash construction. The aircon controls are buried under a ledge that houses the centre airvents and a pair of USB ports.The Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD has a Bose speaker system that’s clean, crisp, punchy, and takes advantage of the DAB radio that’s fitted to all three variants. The touchscreen’s interface isn’t hard to use but sourcing stations in the digital realm was tricky and not intuitive. Naturally there’s apps that can be selected via the touchpad that include Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Alongside that is the variable information available on the driver’s dash display that gives you economy, trip, eco rating, but not speed.The cabin itself is spacious and airy in feel, thanks to an overall height of 1685 mm, a width of 1805 mm overall, and a wheelbase of 2760 mm inside the compact 4405 mm length. The black of the lower seat level section is contrasted by alloy plastic highlights, glossy piano black, and the roof lining in a cloth weave of an almost beige shade. The seats themselves are cloth with a sliver diamond motif in the LS and heated leather (no cooling, sigh) in the Exceed. The Exceed also has a Head Up Display that folds up from the binnacle. Although it’s easy to read and populates itself with information such as speed, crash alerts for the radar assisted cruise control, the screen itself is perhaps a couple of inches too low for ease of vision. Also, the rear tail gate in the Exceed AWD isn’t power operated, as expected. Cargo space is 341L to 448L and sits above a space saver spare. That capacity goes to 1136L with the seats folded.Where the Eclipse Cross claws back points is in the manners on road. The 1.5L needs a little bit of coaxing off the line when loaded up but once into its stride responds willingly enough. With one aboard it’s a sparkling performer, an adept handler, and a surefooted performer in ride quality. With four aboard and the cargo area full it’s less willing to get under way but still has some solid mid range urge. The multi-link rear feels tauter when not loaded up and the front is well balanced in comparison. Absorption of bumps and irregularities is smooth and progressive with even the short and sharp speed restrictors in shopping centres lessened in their crash into the cabin. Turn in is measured and precise, with no feeling of oversteer in the AWD and little understeer in the 2WD. Mass, or lack thereof, helps, as the LS and Exceed 2WD weigh 1490 kilos dry, the AWD 1555 kilos dry.The Eclipse Cross AWD was taken on a good country drive, from Sydney to Bega and surrounds and back, covering in all over 1600 kilometres. Some of that was through the soft, wet, coarse sand of a crossing at the Bega River. Although CVTs tend not to engage straight away when the accelerator is pushed, the development from Mitsubishi has lessened this to the point that engagement is quick and combined with the AWD system (which is switchable for Snow and Gravel) allowed safe, unhurried, and unconcerned crossings. Only rarely, too, did the 1.5L feel that more torque was required, and naturally this was moreso uphill and when overtaking. The CVT is smooth and well matched to the engine, and when the go pedal is pushed to the carpet, has a steady and progressive climb through the revs to 4000 where it plateaus.Safety is paramount here with seven airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking and radar cruise control. This needs some work as the braking is far too harsh and sudden. Modulation down to a more progressive stop would make this a far better experience. A full set of parking sensors is complimented by the reverse camera, 360 degree view on the touchscreen, Lane Departure Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic alert.

At The End Of The Drive.
It’s somewhat of an oddity, the Eclipse Cross, both in name and looks. As a family car and a daily driver, it fits the bill. It’s fine for four but no more, isn’t unattractive, drives well enough to suit almost every application, and the AWD system is ok for some gentle soft-roading. But a few minor quibbles such as the way the HUD sits, the lack of showing speed in the driver’s display, and the compromised rear vision take some of the gloss away.

The LS is priced at the time of writing at %31,990 driveaway, with most of the paint options at $590. The gorgeous metallic red that Exceed AWD is clad in is $890 and tops out at $39,380 driveaway. Specifications for the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross are available here: 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross specifications.

2018 Holden Equinox LT and LS+: Car Reviews.

Private Fleet Holden Equinox LTZ-V review
I was fortunate enough to back to back to back three distinct different yet obviously similar versions of the new Equinox. The above link is solely for the top of the range LTZ-V, with this addendum looking at the mid range LT and LS+.The interior and dash look of the LT isn’t far different from the LTZ-V, with a little less bling, cloth seats that are clad in a comfortable grey hued weave, and a distinct feeling of volume seller. The dash screens light up with the same flickering blue motifs, whereas the LS+ shares the same seats but has a more obvious price point feel in the plastics, screens (generic General Motors in look) and even the sill plates are simple plastic with no real appeal visually.

The LS and LS+ (Holden have changed this to LS Plus) share a turbocharged 1.5L petrol engine and six speed auto. Unfortunately they also share the same non switchable Stop/Start system. Peak power is 127kW and torque is 275Nm across 2000 to 4000. The 4652mm long machine weighs 1514 kilograms plus fuel and passengers and there’s a definable difference between the two powerplants. There’s naturally plenty of mid range squirt in the 2.0L, with the smaller engine dulled more both off the line and in overall driveability. Compared to the zippy off the line 2.0L the 1.5L needs a harder and heavier right foot, more planning for overtaking, but otherwise cruises along well enough once steam has built up.Ride and handling is on par with the LTZ-V, with both feeling tight in the suspension. The LS+ feels perhaps a little more floaty but that can be put down to the higher sidewalls in the Continental 225/65/17 rubber as opposed to the LT’s 225/60/18s. There’s a definite sensation of more absorption, more comfort and plushness but nor does it lose that slightly taut and always in contact with the ground feeling.

At The End Of The Drive.
From AWT’s point of view the LT should be the volume seller. It has pretty much everything the average driver needs, including a more useable driveline package. I raise this simply because people, and fairly, will buy the LS/LS+ on price and to load it up with Mum/Dad/three kids, however under that load the 1.5L will suffer further and economy will skyrocket.Go to 2018 Holden Equinox range to enquire, download a brochure, and book a test drive.

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

Mazda SUVs Records More Growth.

Mazda‘s CX series had a redesign and introduced a new addition to the family with the diesel powered CX-8 in 2017. They’ve combined to give the Japanese brand some great sales figures for January 2018. The CX label has also accounted for just under 45% of Mazda sales in total.

In total 10113 variants of a CX vehicle were sold in the month. Even allowing for a public holiday or two, that’s over three hundred per day. It’s the CX-5 leading the charge, with figures of 2152, making it the number 1 SUV for the month. Nipping at its rubber heels is the CX-3, moving 1582. Respectively that’s an increase of 11.9% and 6.5%. However these are overshadowed by the 27.9% increase for the big seven seater CX-9. That sold 770 units.

Mazda Australia Managing Director, Vinesh Bhindi, said the result sets a promising outlook for the year to come. “Mazda’s class-leading SUV range continues to entice buyers and satiate their needs in a new car, offering style, performance and value. The latest VFACTS results project a great 2018 for Mazda and strong momentum for our SUV range, which will be bolstered further when we introduce the Mazda CX-8 in the second half of the year.” he said.

Contact Mazda via Mazda Australia for more details, and register your interest in the forthcoming CX-8 which is due for release in mid 2018.

Hyundai Showcases Self Driving Fuel Cell Powered Cars.

Autonomous driving is one thing. Using an alternative fuel source is another. Hyundai has combined the two in a stunning display. A convoy of self driving vehicles powered by   technology has driven a 190 kilometre long route between Seoul and Pyeongchang in Korea.

At speeds between 100 to 110 kmh, five vehicles navigated themselves with the only human intervention being at the beginning and end of the journey. Three vehicles are the next generation of SUV called NEXO, with the other two vehicles being based on the Genesis.

Fitted with the current international standard for autonomous driving, Level 4, plus the latest 5G telecommunications tech, February 2 was the start date for the tour. After both the Cruise and Set buttons inside were pressed on the autonomous driving configured steering wheel, the cars immediately went into self drive mode. Lane changes, toll booth entry and exit, even overtaking moves, were executed solely by the on board systems.

The cars themselves aren’t that different from a “normal” street version but are fitted with cameras and LIDAR plus the embedded sensors in the cars themselves.

The fuel cell side sees the NEXO cars able to travel up to six hundred kilometres on a single charge, with a refuel taking under five minutes. An efficiency level of sixty percent is equivalent, currently, to normal fuel vehicles.

Hyundai itself is readying to have autonomous vehicles on road by 2021 for “smart cities“, along with announcing a partnership with American based autonomous driving startup Aurora Technologies, with a full release of autonomous driving capable vehicles by 2030.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Kia Sorento Si

I and Kia continue our long and proud association with the 2018 Kia Sorento Si seven seater spending a few days in the garage before two weeks of Stinger. The car provided has a RRP of $42990 plus metallic paint (Metal Stream) at $595 for a total price of $43585.There’s been some minor changes, both visible and non, compared to the previous model. The petrol engine has increased in size to 3.5L, up from 3.3L. Peak power of 206 kW is seen at 6500 rpm, and peak torque of 336 Nm comes in at 5000 rpm. This means the 4800 mm long, 1932 kg Si, capable of towing 2000 kilograms, has fuel consumption figures of 14.2L per 100 km of standard unleaded from the 71 litre tank around town. Get out on the highway and that drops by nearly half to 7.6L/100 km for the 2WD Si. A new eight speed auto is to thank for that and, quite simply, the combination of turbine smooth engine and silky sweet auto is superb.The Si is the entry level model of a four model Sorento range and comes well loaded with standard and safety equipment. Hold on: A digital and analogue dash features across the range, as does an eight inch touchscreen (up an inch on the previous model) with DAB audio, satnav, safety audio settings for driving, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with voice control, multi-function steering wheel controls, three 12V and two USB sockets, six airbags including side curtain, Driver Attention Alert, Advanced Smart Cruise Control, and metallic look interior trim. That last one is an issue in the Australian climate as heat soak lends itself to burned fingertips. There’s six cup holders (two per seat row), four bottle holders (one in each door pocket), and a cargo blind is standard as well.The interior itself has received a mild freshen up, with new look plastics, a redesign to the look for the steering wheel and its controls, even the touchscreen and surrounds have been mildly massaged. It’s clean and elegant to both look at and touch. What’s missing from the inside is privacy glass for the rear seat passengers. Although the Si’s seats are cloth there’s no heating or venting until the GT-Line level. However dual zone climate control is standard from the Si up. It’s manual seat adjustment for the Si and Sport, with the SLi gaining power seats and two position lumbar support. The GT-Line goes to four way adjustment and thigh support.Leg room is always good for the front seats and good enough for most in the centre. The folding rear seats are compromised by design for leg room but wouldn’t be used, one would suspect, for anything other than city style journeying. As always though Kia’s bent towards simplicity when needed is seen here with simple pull straps employed to raise and lower the third row seats. When they and the mid row seats are folded, there’s a huge 1662L of cargo space available.Outside the Sorento has also been given a light massage. The tail lights have been changed in look as has the front bumper, with a smooth scallop underneath the restyled headlights. A slimmer look to the headlight structure which incorporates the LED driving lights and a restyling to the bumper’s design bring a fresher look to the exterior overall. The rubber is from Nexen, being 235/65/17, and is also the smallest tyre/wheel combination of the four.Although they’re a high sidewall, there’s still plenty of chirping from the front even from what could be called a medium throttle application. That speaks more about the tyres themselves than the engine, given the high revs needed for peak torque. Ride quality, as a result, is somewhat spongy, soft, with a reasonable rebound from the front end over some rather large speedbumps. The rear seems somewhat more tied down in comparison.

The chassis itself is beautiful. Taken through a downhill rural road that has a mix of sweeping curves, tightening radius corners, and a couple of straights long enough to wind up before braking, it holds on and changes direction with minimal weight transfer. Even on the somewhat spongy Nexen rubber, there’s little to no doubt that you can throw the Sorento Si around and come out the other side.The Drive modes are accessible via a tab in the centre console and have me wondering why they’re still offered. In all of AWT’s exposure to such they’ve been barely and rarely used and moreso to find out if they made a difference to the actual feel of driving. There’s Comfort/Eco/Sport/Smart, with the last an adaptive system to road and driving conditions. Sport holds gear longer and loads up the steering, Eco is designed (and more suitable for) long distance driving as would Comfort suit as well.As mentioned, the engine and transmission are utterly harmonious in their partnership. Light throttle application has the big machine underway easily and with no perceptible change of ratio. Light the candle and the Sorento will scamper away with alacrity. There’s no vibration in the driveline and absolutely no sense of strain or stress. Jaguar’s V12 was known for its smoothness and this combination would be on a par.

On an uphill run, where traffic ahead slows forward progress and then clears, a moderate shove of the go pedal has a momentary hesitation, a deep inhale, before launching forward with surprising speed.

As always there’s Kia’s seven year warranty, seven year roadside assistance package, and capped price servicing for seven years or every 15,000 kilometres.At The End Of The Drive.
The Kia Sorento Si is for those that want an SUV to move people but don’t want a people mover. The fact that it’s not an off-road oriented car, due to its 2WD and no transfer case, means it’s likely to be used for ferrying the kids to and from school and to sports activities on the weekend. And this highlights the Achilles heel of the Sorento Si with a petrol engine. Economy was never been a strong point of the 3.3L and an urban figure over over 14.0L per 100 km doesn’t aid the cause. We finished close to 11.0L/100km which is more reasonable but still largely unacceptable.

But if fuel consumption is something not to be fussed about, and a large, comfortable, well equipped, good handling and driving SUV is what appeals, this is one that ticks far too many boxes to be ignored. Here’s where you can find more: 2018 Kia Sorento information