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Low Voltage: The Charge To EV Vehicles

With world governments declaring a transition to electric vehicles over the next three decades or earlier, such as the U.K. by 2030 or 2035, it would be reasonable to presume that Australian governments would also back any push, without extra roadblocks, to have EVs the primary vehicle for passenger transportation.

The Australian Capital Territory has gone to that length, as has the state government of Tasmania, with the Apple Isle declaring the government’s fleet will be 100% electric by 2030. the A.C.T. began their transition process in 2018 . Neither the A.C.T. or the Tasmanian government have currently declared that any form of EV tax will be implemented.

However, South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria have all announced that the users of an EV will be subjected to a user tax. Victoria has declared that as soon as July 1, 2021, a road user tax on EVs will be implemented. Tony Weber, from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, isn’t impressed:

“Australian state governments want to kill the technology at its infancy. Is this because some states want to substitute the Commonwealth excise tax with their own tax? Are motorists being caught in a petty game in which the states want to establish a new revenue base at the expense of the Commonwealth?”

Weber also points out the disassociation of the governments here in regards to what other nations are doing in respect to development alternatives for public vehicle transport.

“All around the world, global automotive companies have invested billions of dollars to develop environmentally friendly vehicles. And all around the world, progressive governments have supported the introduction of these vehicles. But here in Australia, we inhibit their introduction by levying extra charges on them. It simply beggars belief at this early stage of electric vehicle introduction.”

Mr Weber’s points take aim at the short-sighted attitude of the Australian states that appear to prefer revenue over doing something that reduces exhaust emissions and going some way to reduce the effects of climate change. “With its proposal to tax LZEVs through a road-user charging tariff, South Australia is discouraging the uptake of environmentally friendly motoring and is turning its back on the topic of Climate Change.”

The argument for the taxes comes from those that see that by using no petrol or diesel, which have excises attached, by using the same roads without those excise contributions, EVs are effectively getting a free ride. This overlooks the charges by electricity suppliers to any location providing an outlet for an EV to be charged, however then it’s pointed out those EV charges don’t go back into the roads.

This is something the Australian Automobile Association has in mind when it comes to a fairer apportioning of charges: “As people move towards electric vehicles and other low emission technologies, revenue from fuel excise is declining, which not only risks road funding, but also means some drivers are paying for roads while others are not, which is neither a fair nor a sustainable model. A nationally consistent approach will be important to drivers, who won’t want a patchwork of unique state charging systems, technologies, or rates.”

Regardless of which, it would appear to be a prudent move by the governments to look at what the A.C.T. is doing: Zero stamp duty on new zero emissions vehicles; 20% discount on registration fees; Annual savings from reduced running costs; Help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep our environment clean and healthy; Quieter driving and reduced noise pollution.

And perhaps: In 2017 the United Kingdom and France announced their intention to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, with all cars to be fully electric. Since this time, other countries have also committed to phasing out new petrol and diesel car sales including Scotland, India, China, Norway and the Netherlands.

Then there is the announcement in mid November, 2020, by General Motors, here.

As Bob Dylan once sang: the times, they are a-changing…but it seems some governments are stuck in time.

Raw Materials and Sustainability in an Automotive World

Car interiors are looking very stylish with many colours available, many textures and, of course, technologies.  Even the exterior and structure of new cars utilise some pretty sensational materials that are lightweight, strong and malleable.  So what are the main raw materials that make up the structure, style and flair that we love in our vehicles?

Inside each new car are different materials that require a number of raw materials for their production.  Aluminium, glass, coking coal, and iron ore are used in the process of making steel.  Kia and Mazda use very high-grade, high-strength steel in the production of their cars.  Mazda even states that they use very thin and strong steel.  There is a cost, though; the more high-grade, lightweight and high-strength the steel, the costlier it is to produce.  High-strength steel alloys cost more to manufacture.  Not only is the high-grade alloy harder to create in its raw form; it is also harder to work with.  Stamping it and forming it becomes harder, and so more energy and stronger tools are needed to press, form and cut it.

The automotive industry also relies on oil and petroleum products, not just for the gasoline and fuel to power the vehicles, but for the synthesis of plastics and in the production of other synthetic materials.  Petroleum products are needed to make huge amounts of plastics, rubber and special fibres.  After the raw materials are extracted from the earth, they are transformed into products that automakers or auto parts companies use in the car assembly process.

But wait; there is more – but only if you are into driving an electric vehicle (EV).  An EV is made up of all the raw materials described above, as the only thing that’s different about an EV from a vehicle that is powered by a combustion engine is that an EV uses a battery pack to get its power.  In every EV battery, there’s a complex chemistry of metals – cobalt, lithium, nickel and more.  These are all raw materials that need to be mined from somewhere around the globe.  Some researchers are expecting to see double-digit growth for batteries’ special raw materials over the next decade, and this sort of growth will increase the pressure on the raw material supply chain for EVs.

Hydrogen vehicles are powered by hydrogen.  The power plants of such vehicles convert the chemical energy of hydrogen into mechanical energy by either burning hydrogen in an internal combustion engine, or by reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to power electric motors.  The fuel cell is more common.  A hydrogen powered vehicle is made up of the same core raw materials as the contemporary combustion powered cars and the EVs; however, like the EV, the hydrogen vehicle gets it power from a different source (hydrogen).  As of 2019, 98% of the hydrogen was produced by steam methane reforming, and this emits carbon dioxide.  Hydrogen can be produced by thermochemical or pyrolytic means using renewable feedstocks, but the processes are currently expensive.  So, you can run a hydrogen vehicle with an internal combustion engine that uses hydrogen as the fuel.  However, you can also run a hydrogen vehicle that uses a hydrogen fuel cell.  The hydrogen fuel cell is more complex, relying on special raw materials (one raw material being platinum as a catalyst) to deliver the hydrogen for powering the vehicle.

Biofuel is another fuel which can be used for powering combustion engine vehicles.  Biofuel can be produced sustainably from renewable resources.  The hitch with this one is ensuring there are large enough areas and methods dedicated to growing and producing biofuel for the masses.  Biofuel is considered to be a fuel that is derived from biomass, which can be from plant or algae material or animal waste. Since such plant, algae or animal waste material can be replenished readily, biofuel is considered to be a source of renewable energy, unlike fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas and even EVs.

Without a doubt, the automobile industry is one of the largest consumers of the world’s raw materials, and it’s important we get informed as to just how green a heralded new technology is said to be.  Science and sustainability need to continue to power our much needed vehicles about the globe and not fossil fuel giants, electric companies or blinded government bureaucrats.

Hyundai Draws The N-Line.

Hyundai’s aggressive expansion has been bolstered by the news that the Korean goliath is adding to its i30 N-Line range with the Sonata, Tucson, i20, and Kona to all be given N-Line treatment. The current expected timeline is by the end of 2021 to have the full range in showrooms. This also includes the soon to be facelifted i30 hatch and new i30 sedan.Spearheading the launch, with i30 already available, is the new Sonata range. A heavily revised exterior brings dramatic lines to the handsome mid-sizer, including a unique frontal treatment which features Hyundai’s new signature Parametric Jewel Pattern grille. There are LED driving lights that run across the top of the assertively styled headlights and follow the leading edge of the bonnet’s shutline. In profile a hard and sharp edge rises over the elegantly sculpted flanks, finishing over a restyled rear diffuser in a bespoke N Line design and double twin-tipped exhaust outlets. Rear lights are low a striking U-shape on each side and joined by a brilliantly lit horizontal strip.

Power is from the Sonata N Line’s Smartstream 2.5 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which delivers 213kW and 422Nm of torque between 1,650 and 4,000 rpm. Transmission is the slick eight speed dual-clutch auto. That torque is courtesy of a turbo and a new cylinder head to allow better breathing. Dry mass is 1,636kg, and the body sits on its own unique suspension tune. There are firmer bushings, revised shock absorber valving plus higher spring rates whilst roll is controlled even more thanks to larger sway bars front and rear.To deal with the unexpected, N Line Sonata gets the full safety rig. It’ll be loaded with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Reverse Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist and Lane Follow Assist. Factor in Advanced Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go and Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist and the N Line Sonata is covered.

Naturally there is a significant interior upgrade package as standard. A perforated leather wrapping for the steering wheel starts off, with supportive sports seats stitched in red. Sporty highlights come from the alloy pedals and alloy look trim for the gear selector and steering wheel.A customisable 10.25 inch widescreen touchscreen is front and centre. The driver sees a 12.3 inch full colour screen. This will provide four views, being driver assistance, parking assistance, navigation, and utility features. For sound and mobile phone support, there is dual Bluetooth streaming, allowing one to pair for music, the other for calls. Tunes will pump from a Bose 12 speaker system, and extra convenience comes from a smartphone charge pad, Hyundai’s Remote Start service, and soft touch exterior door handles.

The company also unveiled early hints on the Tucson N Line. Confirmation of on-sale dates is yet to be received.The release of the N Line foreshadows a step forward for the conglomerate of Hyundai, Genesis, and Kia. ccOS, the connected car Operating System has been developed in-house at Hyundai, and will be offered across the brands from 2022. The services has been working with computer parts maker NVIDIA, familiar to many for their Shield streaming device and graphics cards.

Standard across all models will be a heightened in-vehicle infotainment delivery, combining audio, video, navigation, connectivity, and artificial intelligence (AI)-based ‘connected car’ services, which will be broken down into four core areas of interest and usebility.

Secure Computing will offer protection for the vehicle with a monitoring of in- and external vehicle networks, and keeping data that is associated with vehicle safety isolated. Seamless Computing will focus on a provision of an uninterrupted service of connected smart devices and infrastructure. Intelligent Computing works with the AI to learn the driver’s style and driving methods. NVIDIA’s GPUs will process data in huge streams from within and outside the vehicle, with a look forward to new I.T. technologies

Hyundai Motor Group has been working with NVIDIA since 2015, and the NVIDIA DRIVE platform already underpins the advanced IVI systems found in the Genesis GV80 and G80, with a new fully digital interface expected to be unveiled in late 2021.

(Pictures are of overseas models and supplied by Hyundai.)

2021 Volvo XC40 R-Design PHEV: Private Fleet Car Review

This Car Review Is About: Volvo’s SUV entry into the hybrid world and specifically the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle world. The R-Spec sits at the top of the mid-range for the XC40 and looks an ideal way to get the Swedish brand into the market for hybrid SUVs.

How Much Does It Cost?: Volvo provided, as always, an extensive information sheet. The manufacturer’s list price is $64,990. As tested, the vehicle supplied was $69,760. Metallic paint is a premium price here and double the asking cost of nearly everyone else in the segment at $1,150. A powered folding rear seat headrest and cargo protection net is $230. A Climate Pack which consists of heated wipers, heated front seats, and heated tiller is $700. A big tech item is the 360 degree camera is $990, with tinted rear windows at $700. For the heated rear seat that’s $350 with Park Assist Pilot at $650.What’s Under The Bonnet?: A combination of a three cylinder 1.5L petrol motor and battery powered engine. The petrol motor is 1.5L in capacity, and generates 132kW of peak power and 265Nm of peak torque. This is backed up by the 60kW and 160Nm from the electric motor. Consumption is quoted as 2.2L/100km for the combined cycle and that is eminently achievable. We saw nothing worse than 4.6L/100km, meaning a theoretical range of around 1,000km. It also reduces emissions, with 50g/km the quoted figure. Tank size is 48.0L. 0-100kph time is quoted as 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 205kph.On the Outside It’s: Unchanged from the “normal XC40” bar the addition of a port fitted for the battery pack on the left forward flank. To see our original review, click here for more.

On The Inside It’s: Also largely the same. The virtual dash has the addition of Hybrid in the right hand dial, and the main touchscreen, which swipes left or right for submenus, now has the addition of a “Charge” tab, to engage the engine whilst driving to add charge to the battery pack. A zipper bag is included that houses the charge cable. A simple clip ensures the bag stays in place whilst driving. The airvents have a whiff of 1950s elegance and an alloy trim plate brings class to the dash ahead of the passenger. The cargo area is of a very good size but has a flat floor, losing the more effective folding floor that opened to storage pockets underneath.On The Road It’s: An interesting drive. In our experience, hybrids start off quietly, get to around 20kph, and then, regardless if a EV Mode is selected, overrides that and kicks in the petrol engine. Here it’s the opposite, with silent electric driving UNLESS the accelerator is mashed to the floor. The three cylinder engine is isolated to the point of invisibility aurally, and is so well integrated in the drivetrain that any physical sensation is virtually free of being felt.Range on battery alone is estimated at 40 kilometres, and the dash display shows this along with the consumption. There is a regenerative change that collects kinetic energy and feeds it back to the battery. And when engaging the petrol engine to recharge that battery it’s that same seamless switch from a silky smooth electric run to a barely perceptible thrum from the three cylinder. However, it’s a two mode system and cannot be adjusted. There are drive modes, one of which is Pure. This locks the drive into only battery powered motion and when the battery runs dry, automatically switches to petrol power. Power mode hitches both electric and petrol to the drivetrain, and emulates the heavy right foot drive style needed when that just right break in the traffic comes along.It’s an ideal cruiser too, with the combined torque propelling the 1,760kg XC40 along the freeways and highways effortlessly. It’s a serene experience, with only hints of tyre and noise getting through to the cabin. That’s an impressive feat considering the 245/45/20 Pirelli P-Zero rubber. With such a sizeable footprint, more noise would be reasonably expected. They also provide, not unexpectedly, more than ample grip, with cornering a confidence-building event and with virtually zero body roll from the MacPherson strut/multi-link rear. The ride is perfect, with compliance and a sporty tautness exactly where they should be. The same applies to the steering; it’s light but not overly so. There is weight when needed but nor is it excessive or applied at the wrong time.

Braking is the area that needs work; that beautifully tactile feel has changed to a grabby and non-intuitive bite. There’s a lack now of gentle and smooth progression, it’s now a situation where it’s semi-soft before grabbing the discs and lurching the XC40 to a halt. It’s more than a niggle especially at traffic lights and stop signs where there may be a vehicle ahead, and that lurch is enough to raise the eyebrows and push the pedal harder to avoid contact.

What About Safety?: Plenty, of course. It’s what Volvo is built on. Here’s the list: City Safety: Pedestrian, Vehicle, Large Animals and Cyclist Detection, Intersection Collision and Oncoming Mitigation with Brake Support; Steering Support; Intellisafe Assist: Driver Alert; Lane Keeping Aid; Adjustable Speed Limiter function; Oncoming Lane Mitigation; Intellisafe Surround: Blind Spot Information (BLIS) with Cross TrafficAlert (CTA), Front and Rear Collision Warning with mitigation support; and Run-off road Mitigation. Hill start assist; Hill Descent Control; Park-assist Front and Rear; Rain Sensor; Drive mode with personal powersteering settings; Emergency Brake Assist (EBA); Emergency BrakeLight (EBL); Frontal Airbags, Side Impact Protection System (SIPS)with airbags in front seats, Inflatable Curtains and Whiplash ProtectionSystem; Driver’s knee airbag; Belt Reminder all seats; ISO-FIX outerposition rear seat; Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS) complete what is an obviously extensive list.What About Warranty And Service?: Five years and unlimited kilometres. The battery has an eight year warranty excluding expected efficiency losses. Volvo has a three year capped price service plan and for the XC40 it’s $1,595.

At The End Of the Drive. Hybrid technology for the automotive world is increasingly seen as a better option than purely electric and hydrogen. The bigger the charge from the battery the more assistance it provides to the petrol engine, and the better the range. And then the range anxiety that still worries people with a purely battery only vehicle is largely alleviated, and petrol running costs are reduced significantly.

In XC40 R-Design form, hybrid tech provides an ideal opportunity to sample it and in a car that is an award winning vehicle. There is plenty to like here, and it’s a car worthy of investigating to place in the driveway. Here is some information from Volvo.

 

Vehicles for Towing

Getting the right Tow Vehicle

For a number of people, towing the boat or caravan to the holiday spot for some much needed R&R is what makes life exciting for them.  And, on a more work-related note, towing is essential if you’re a builder, labourer, farmer or gardener.  So what does make a good tow vehicle?  A good tow vehicle must be structurally strong, and it must offer plenty of torque -­ the lower down the revs the better.

Before all else, always check the manufacturer’s tow capacity guidelines for any vehicle that you are interested in purchasing, particularly if towing is going to be one of the tasks on the vehicle’s to-do-list.  A vehicle’s towing capacity is determined by its manufacturer and it is based on factors such as: the engineering and structural design of the vehicle, the vehicle’s rear axle load limits, the capacity of its tyres, the effect the laden trailer will have on the vehicle’s handling and stability, and the durability of the car’s underpinnings, and overall road safety.

So, after checking the manufacturer’s guidelines, then you need to look at what power and, more particularly, what torque is on offer.  Generally, vehicles with diesel engines make better towing vehicles than equivalent petrol-powered models because they produce much higher torque in low-to-medium engine revolution.  They are also more fuel efficient when under load.  Peak torque figures under 200 Nm will struggle to keep up with modern-day motorway and open-road demands, and throw in a hill or two and you’ll quickly have a build-up of traffic following behind you.

RWD vehicles are better than FWD vehicles for towing because any weight that pushes down on the tow ball will generally lighten the front wheels at the same time, which lessens the traction available to the front wheels.  The more wheel chatter (where the front wheels lose and gain traction instantly) that the front wheels endure, the more the wear and tear will be found on the FWD componentry.

If you’re only pulling a small trailer load of rubbish to the dump, then it’s surprising what most vehicles will tow.  However, I’m focusing on those of us who require trailer loads that are going to be more than 700 kg laden.  Here are some useful towing vehicles you might like to consider:

The Mitsubishi Outlander is a seven-seater SUV that has a maximum towing capacity of 2000 kg braked.  Its 2.2-litre Turbo-Diesel engine boasts 110 kW of power and a very useful 360 Nm of torque.  The Outlander Turbo-Diesel motor offers 360 Nm from 1500 rpm to 2750 rpm, making towing a breeze.  It’s also a fuel efficient and roomy SUV even when you’re not towing.  A combined fuel consumption is a claimed 6.2 litres/100 km: quite impressive.

Hyundai’s Tucson has a maximum towing capacity of 1600 kg braked.  This mid-size SUV has a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine with 136 kW of power and 400 Nm of torque.  That 400 Nm is definitely a strong asset when it comes to towing.  The Tucson is also frugal without the trailer.

Another option for light towing duties would be the Suzuki Grand Vitara Sport.  With a maximum towing capacity of 1700 kg braked and 750 kg un-braked it’s a handy workhorse to have around.  Being RWD that will employ the FWD when required makes for decent traction.  A larger 2000 kg braked capacity is offered with the V6 Sport model.  The Grand Vitara uses a 2.4-litre petrol and a four-speed auto delivering a 122 kW/225 Nm combo through the dual-range transmission.  The torque comes on strongly from lower down in the revs.

A Hyundai Sante Fe with the 2.2-litre turbo diesel can tow a 2000 kg braked trailer.  On offer is a remarkably grunty 440 Nm of torque that sets off low down in the revs for easy power delivery for towing.

The Mazda CX-5 2.2-litre diesel is also capable of towing a braked trailer up to 1800 kg.  With 393 Nm of torque, this is a smooth cruiser.  Mazda’s CX-9 can tow a 2000 kg braked trailer or up to 750 kg unbraked.  Mazda’s CX-9 petrol engines perform very well and are very fuel efficient.  This is a big seven-seater wagon with a turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine boasting 170 kW at 5000 rpm and 420 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm.  This CX-9 is a great family all-rounder with plenty of space on offer.

The small Audi Q3 2.0-litre diesel SUV, which can tow a braked trailer up to 2000 kg offers a decent European towing option.  A responsive 380 Nm of torque from 1750 rpm works well, and it’s also Quattro (AWD).

SKODA’s Kodiaq SUV can tow up to 2000 kg braked. It’s also roomy and very practical.  With the option of 4WD and some very powerful diesel engines, this is a really good tow vehicle to have parked up the driveway.  It also has a 620 litre boot space with five seats up or 270 litres in seven-seat guise.

What about the Volkswagen Tiguan?  This is a stable and spacious drive, offering a 2500 kg braked towing capacity.  Having the option of AWD, the Tiguan goes some serious places and is therefore great for getting onto gravel-type roads.  A towing assistance package and plenty of space makes this a likable tow vehicle.

Something a bit different would be BMW’s 520d Touring wagon, which is RWD or AWD and is a decent towing vehicle (2000 kg braked).  Excellent handling, even when towing, makes it a joy to drive.  The 4×4 automatic transmission and strong engine makes this a really easy car to manage for drivers towing a load.  There’s heaps of room in the boot to pack in everything you need for family weekends away.

Another station wagon that happily tows a trailer or caravan is the Audi A6 Allroad.  This is an Estate with AWD, and it is also very comfortable and well-equipped.  The toque-filled TDI engine makes for a quick drive and a heap of grunt.  You also get 565 litres of boot space, which goes up to 1680 litres with the rear seats down.

On the station wagon theme, the last of the recent Falcon and Commodore Wagons are RWD and have always been great towing vehicles.  They offered RWD utes as well.  Sadly these icons won’t be with us anymore.

Some more serious towing machines:

The Mitsubishi Pajero 3.0 diesel 4X4 SUV is capable of towing a 3300 kg braked trailer.

Toyota’s Prado 3.0 diesel 4X$ SUV will tow up to a 2500 kg as a braked trailer.

The Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover vehicles are a very good towing machine.  It’s also luxurious and practical, and will happily head of into the toughest off-road terrain.  The Discovery can pull up to 3000 kg braked.  Inside there’s room for seven adults as well as an impressively-sized boot to bring along the luggage for all those people.

An LDV T60 ute is a solid, capable performer. With a 2.8-litre 110kW/360Nm turbo diesel four-cylinder, this is more than enough grunt to tow up to 2200 kg.  Boasting a remarkable fuel economy figure of 10 litres/100 km towing and offering a low buying price makes this a very tempting tow package.

Though Nissan runs both a single- and twin-turbo four-cylinder in the Navara, they’re both rated to 3500 kg for towing.  The best engine is the twin-turbo 2.3-litre that pumps out 140kW/450Nm.  Very fuel efficient (around 7.2 litres/100 km unladen) and it’s also equipped with a recent rear spring upgrade..

Don’t forget to check out the Isuzu D-Max ute with 430 Nm of torque on offer.  It’s a rugged ute with 4×4 ability.  There is also the Isuzu MU-X SUV 4WD rated to tow 3000 kg (braked).  LS-T models are very well equipped vehicles that are extremely comfortable.

With a high 3500 kg tow rating, thanks to its solid rear axle, the SsangYong Rexton is a highly capable tow vehicle.  So too is the SsangYong Rhino ute.  Both use the same 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine that can easily pull up to 3500 kg (braked).

The legendary Toyota Hilux’s towing capabilities are superb.  The new 2.8-litre turbo-diesel motor delivers a 130kW/450Nm blend of power.  Depending on the model, your new Hilux ute can tow from 2500 kg braked.

Mazda’s latest BT-50 ute shares mechanicals with the Ford Ranger, which means that 147 kW and 470 Nm is impressively competent.  Towing over 2500 kg braked in this comfortable, practical ute with all the bells and whistles is easy, and like many utes these days it also offers 4×4 action.

Ford’s Ranger packs great tow grunt and capability with its 3.2-litre, five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.  You can tow up to 3500 kg braked.  There is also a 2.0-litre bi-turbo option for towing up to 3500 kg.

A whopping 500 Nm from its 2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder has the Holden Colorado ute take top spot for popular 4WD ute towing grunt; and it tows like a champion.

In V6 guise, the Volkswagen Amarok packs a 550 Nm or 580 Nm torque delivery option with its 3.0-litre V6 engine.  You can tow up to 3500 kg braked, but with the optional softer suspension pack this drops to 3000 kg braked.

Very Serious Towing Machines

Capable of towing up to 3500 kg braked, the Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series ute has a V8 under the hood.  The 4.5-litre 32- valve quad-cam turbo diesel V8 with 151 kW and 430 Nm is a total beast and highly recommended for use as a tow vehicle.  Impressive fuel economy (for a V8) should see well under 12 litres/100 km fuel use when unladen.  The only gearbox is a five-speed manual.  Toyota’s reputation for reliability and dependability makes this a beauty.

Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series GXL (4X4):  This vehicle cruises comfortably and effortlessly over long distances, powering up long hills without a sweat.  Extremely capable when the tarmac runs out, along with its smooth six-speed automatic and 4.5-litre twin turbo-diesel V8 you’re always finding grunt at any revs.  The combination of 200 kW at 3600 rpm and 650 Nm at 1600 rpm makes this one of the very best vehicles for 4X4 towing.

Nissan Patrol TI 4X4 (Y62):  OK, this is petrol; but with 298 kW and 560 Nm on offer, who cares!  This base-spec eight-seater Patrol is rated to tow 3500 kg (braked).  Comfort and premium technology makes this an effortless vehicle for cruising and towing.  And premium off-road action is guaranteed.

The RAM is the ultimate tow vehicle

RAM Laramie 2500 4X4: This one has a maximum towing capacity of 6942kg (braked) and its power comes from a 6.7-litre six cylinder Cummins turbo-diesel engine (276kW/1084Nm!).  The sweet six-speed automatic transmission makes towing a doddle.

RAM 3500: is another big tow option with a maximum towing capacity (braked) of 6171kg.

 

Full Speed Ahead: Mustang Mach 1 Returns.

It’s a blast from the past for fans of the Blue Oval as the Mustang Mach 1 is readied for a 2021 Down Under release date. Sharing features from the Mustang Shelby GT350 and GT500, the Mustang Mach 1 is suitable for the track as much as it will the road.

Aero aids, the famous Mach 1 badging, and a 345kW 5.0L V8 under the long bonnet are part of the appealing package. There is a Tremec six speed manual or Ford’s ten speed auto to play with, and the manual has rev-matching technology for better changes. A heavier-duty oil cooler can be specced for both, and a software upgrade for the auto to optimise road and track based performance.

The Mach 1 rolls on a bespoke suspension tune with MagneRide 1 dampers and bespoke springs, along with rejigged anti-roll bars and bush specifications to deliver improved control and response under high cornering loads. 19 inch alloys will be uniquely designed for the Mach 1. Body colour and external trim combinations number five, and bonnet stripes and body styling evoking the original 1970s version. Each vehicle has its own identification badge for the chassis number.

The engine benefits from an open air induction system, 87mm throttle bodies, and a manifold shared with the North American specification Shelby GT350. The engine’s management system has been tweaked to allow high and low pressure fuel injection to match the engine revs. Peak torque, by the way, is 556Nm at 4,600rpm, with the 345kW at a high 7,7500rpm. Keeping the engine’s oil cool is the job assigned to the Shelby GT350 unit, bolted on via a redesigned mount to ensure a proper flow under any load. It also means that te only engines noises a driver should hear exit via a quad set of 4.5 inch tips via the Active Valve Performance Exhaust system.

“Following the success of Mustang BULLITT and Mustang R-SPEC, we are very excited to introduce this highly capable, track ready Mustang to our Australian Mustang fans. The unique styling, which pays homage to the original model, is more than worthy of its legendary badge,” said Andrew Birkic, President and CEO, Ford Australia and New Zealand.

A twin-disc six speed manual or a ten speed auto are the transmissions. The manual has a rev-matching system that momentarily blips the throttle, matching the engine speed to the selected gear. For those that like a sporty feel, flat shifting is also programed in to be usable. And as a track capable machine, there is an additional cooling system fitted to the limited slip diff rear axle.

Aero changes see the Mach 1 having 22 percent more downforce than the Mustang GT. A rear diffuser shared with the Shelby GT400 pairs with a longer undertray fitted with air directional fins for brake cooling. A change to the shape of the front splitter sees an increase in aero grip too. This is all balanced by a specially designed rear decklid spoiler.

Ride and handling see the MagneRide magnetic suspension recalibrated for the Mach 1. Stiffer front springs and recalibrated roll bars are partnered with Mustang Shelby GT350 and GT500 subframes and toe-link components. Braking is improved with a higher spec booster with discs inside a set of five spoke 19 inch wheels.

There will be a choice of five body colours, complete with bonnet and side stripe combinations. Available will be Fighter Jet Gray2 with Satin Black/Reflective Orange stripes, Shadow Black and Oxford White with Satin Black/Red stripes, or Velocity Blue and Twister Orange, with Satin Black/White stripes. To add extra spice, an optional Appearance Pack will also be available exclusively with Fighter Jet Gray, featuring orange accent seatback trim, orange brake callipers and satin black and orange hood and side stripe. Mustang Mach 1 upper and lower front grilles are finished in gloss black, and the iconic Mach 1 logo appears on the rear deck-lid and on each front wing.Interior trim will be an Ebony colour scheme and an aluminuim trim called Dark Engine. Metal Grey is the colour for the stitching in the seats, with Recaro seats available to option. Each Mustang Mach 1 features a unique dashboard badge featuring the Mach 1 logo and chassis number, complemented by unique sill plates and a new start-up display on the 12-inch digital instrument display cluster. Sounds will pump from a 12 speaker Bang and Olufsen system, and internet on the go comes courtesy of FordPass Connect 5.

In addition to a five-year, unlimited kilometre full factory warranty, the Mustang Mach 1 is eligible for the Ford Service Benefits program that includes Service Loan Car, Auto Club Membership, including Roadside Assistance and Sat-Nav map updates. Furthermore, maximum service price is $299, including GST, for each of the first four A or B Logbook services at a participating dealership for up to 4 years / 60,000kms, whichever comes first, for eligible customers.

$83,365 is the manufacturer’s recommended list price for both manual and auto, with premium paint at $650, Recaro seats a lazy $3K, and the Appearance pack just $1,000.

“Mustang has won the hearts and minds of Australian drivers, and Mach 1 is one of the most thrilling Mustangs to date. This head turning model not only looks the part, but it has all the hardware to delight Mustang enthusiasts, offering on-track excitement and on-road driving pleasure.” added Birkic.

 

Automobile Servicing: Dealership V Mobile.

Very few would disagree that the days of hauling out the toolbox on a Sunday morning to tune the Kingswood are long gone. With the advent of Electronic Fuel Injection or EFI, longer lasting oils, engine covers that look too tricky to remove, plus more specific guidelines from car makers, servicing a car at home has become something of the past.

Or has it?

Mobile servicing has become a huge business over the last couple of decades or so and it has provided some genuine benefits. To find out more, we spoke to David Endres from APR Mobile Servicing. He has over twenty years of experience in the automotive servicing field including fifteen as a mobile servicer.We started with what appears to be an obvious benefit: that one on one contact. Straight away there is that personal service, that personal touch, by having your car serviced at home or at work, says David. You get to meet the person that will be performing the service, and feedback is virtually instant is something needs to be discussed. David says it’s an instantly more usable system as any issues or changes that may have arisen can be discussed face to face and clarifications are conveyed in a far more understandable sense, rather than by a phone call, or worse, by email or text. Also the client can see for themselves what might be the problem, right on the spot.

This brought us to the convenience factor. It’s a big one, says David. “We come to you at a time that suits you, and with more people working from home, your life continues whilst we look after your car.” If a service is done at an office workplace, there is less downtime, says David, and this is one way to keep the boss on your side. Plus, it means there is little to no extra travel time required, such as if a dealership is some distance away from home or work.One unexpected benefit of a mobile service, says David, is for the elderly and infirm benefit plus stay at home parents. This absolutely minimises intrusions into their lives, and as David pointed out, imagine having to wrangle small children back and forth on public transport on a hot summer’s day. Trade services such as sparkies or plumbers gain the benefit of a mobile service, as their own light commercial vehicle can be looked after whilst they themselves are on the job. This applies to company “reps”, who can meet David at a specified location and time, leave him to service their vehicle and they continue their representative role.

Given the question of timeframe, David says he aims to have around two hours from start to finish. What this means for the work from home Mum, or the look after the grandkids grandparents, is downtime is as short as possible, rather than the traditional method of a dealership’s “drop off in the morning, pickup in the afternoon”. However, there is a benefit in the dealership approach. Should a part be required and it’s not immediately in stock at that dealership, a turnaround time to have a courier bring the part from a warehouse or another dealership can virtually ensure it’s done during the day and ready for a client to pickup at day’s end.

This, says David, is where a mobile service callout will require a re-booking whilst an ordered part is on its way. He’s at pains to caution that if the work required has the vehicle in a condition that it shouldn’t be driven, that the client is immediately fully briefed. he also highlights that a second visit to fit the required part is at no extra cost to the client. This took us to the cost factor. David believes that mobile servicers are very cost effective, as their only overheads are the costs of running the service vehicles, rather than paying for a building’s electrical costs, management costs, and the like. And, as a rule, the actual hourly rates are competitive, saving a client money.

The experience factor was a key point here. Acknowledging that everyone starts somewhere, David opines that having the experience to provide a mobile service provides a true peace of mind for a client, with the ability to deal with questions and any potential issues on the spot because of it. In a dealership situation, that experience starts with an apprentice, a position where the basics of servicing a vehicle, especially in a first service, leads to the experience required in providing a mobile service.

Inclusive of this point is the process of assisting a client to diagnose a problem if the booking isn’t for a straight service. By working one on one with the owner, and asking open ended questions, it minimises the time needed to diagnose and identify the problem. This includes possibly driving the vehicle before commencing any work. At a dealership, a similar process can be undertaken, and the benefit comes back to the timeframe and possibly having a required part in stock.

Serviceman

Location wise, a mobile service can cover a lot of ground, and it’s here that the benefit of being largely city wide in coverage helps. APR’s homebase in in Parramatta, west of the Sydney CBD, however the coverage is across most of the majority of the Sydney basin. The timeframe to work with is critical here, says David. With an average lead-in time of a week, this allows APR Mobile Services to arrange a schedule that suits the client first and reduces drastically unnecessary travel from the business end.

It also allows David to ensure that, where possible, the right parts to start with are available, and it also provides him with the opportunity to fit parts that aim for a longevity situation. By that, David says it brings to a client, the right parts to ensure that downtime is minimised but also that the gaps between visits for unnecessary work is reduced as much as possible.

Another benefit, says David, is purely personal. By being hands-on with a client’s car, a relationship is built, and a number of clients like to reward the efforts provided. Although dealership staff can be on the receiving end of a gift from a grateful client, it’s not as personal as dealing with someone one-on-one. There’s a more rewarding situation for many clients, especially for those that may have been under stress or are not automobile savvy, and they like to express their gratitude with a small gift personally. What this does for a mobile servicer is up the level of satisfaction for a job well done, something David at APR Mobile Services takes a lot of quiet pride in knowing has been provided.

David and APR in Sydney can be reached at 0410 323 856. Check your search engine for local mobile servicers.

Mercedes-Benz Flags the End of the Manual Transmission

In news that will send a shiver down the spine of motoring purists, Mercedes-Benz has signalled the end is nigh for the beloved manual transmission.

That’s according to Mercedes-Benz’s head of innovative work, Markus Schaefer, who made the comments suggesting curtains were drawing near as the brand shifts its attention to electrifying its vehicle line-up.

The German manufacturer will produce six models under the EQ badge, furthering its focus on a format that has yet to gain traction, but is seen as the ‘future’. Among its combustion line-up, plug-in hybrids are set to fill the void as combustion engines are consolidated across a series of Mercedes-Benz platforms.

At the heart of the decision is a drive by the company to reduce costs by standardising architecture across the company. In effect, Mercedes-Benz is promoting a modular strategy, which will limit variations between models, but help to keep manufacturing costs in check to support funding elsewhere.

 

 

Were the clues already in place?

The move away from manual has arguably been in the works for some time now. Among Mercedes-Benz’s current international line-up, larger variants have long been confined to automatic transmissions. Only a few cars have been fitted with a manual transmission, mostly entry-level variants in the A and C Class ranges. Closer to home, and the entire breadth of Mercedes-Benz’s passenger vehicle series is fitted with an automatic transmission.

You certainly can’t say the writing hasn’t been on the wall for a while now.

The bigger question from here on in, however, will be what impact this move has on the broader new car industry. Are we set to see an increasing number of manufacturers abandon the manual format in favour of a simpler set-up, thereby standardising combustion vehicle architecture in order to focus on electric vehicle research and development.

Only time will tell, but this may just be the beginning of an industry-wide trend.

 

Peugeot Sport Engineering: 508 Goes Hybrid.

Peugeot is undergoing a quiet evolution. Their stunning 508 sedan/coupe and wagon has been given the hybrid tick and along with the engine change comes a name change. Peugeot Sport Engineered is the monicker to be given to the range.The drivetrain that will be slotted into the Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered is a 147kW/300Nm 1.6L turbo four and a pair of electric motors. There is 81kW for the front, 83kW for the rear, making the vehicle a proper all wheel drive and being driven by 265kW and 520 Nm. Packaging sees the cargo space for both body styles unchanged. The transmission is an eight speed auto. Sink the slipper and 100kph comes up in 5.2 seconds, and the top speed is an electronically limited 250kph. Need some overtaking ability? 80kph to 120kph is seen in just three seconds.

The plug-in hybrid’s system sees an 11.5kWh battery fitted and using a standard 240V house socket should be charged in around seven hours. Factor in a 32A wallbox and that drops down to under two hours, or install a 16A plug system and that’s a good average of around 4 hours or less.Utilising the urge comes down to choosing from one of five drive modes. Sport takes a fully charged battery, and adjusts the dampers, engine, and transmission into the most energetic drive modes. Electric is a pure battery drive and offers a range of just over 40 kilometres, whilst disabling the 1.6-T at velocities of up to 140kph. Comfort is what the name suggests, with a cushy, plush ride, Hybrid uses both battery and petrol for an optimal drive, with the all-wheel drive mode more for those slipperier roads. Ride is helped by those adaptive dampers, a track change of 24mm front and 12mm rear, with 380mm font discs being slowed by four piston pads. 20 inch alloys hold on to Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber.

Defining the look of the 508 Sport Engineered is an upgraded interior featuring Peugeot’s ubiquitous flat-bottomed tiller, the beautiful i-cockpit with 12.3 inch LCD screen, a premium audio setup from Focal, and a 10.0 inch main touchscreen. Leather “comfort-fit” seats with a 3D looking mesh cosset the passengers and the driver keep an eye on info via a HUD. Safety will include AEB, Lane Departure Warning, and night vision cameras.There is a bespoke grille, a redesigned front bumper with new air scoops in the lower corners, blackened exhaust tips, a rear diffuser and winglets front and rear. Selenium Grey, Pearl White, and Perla Nera Black will be the colours available.

Peugeot Australia has not yet confirmed availability for Australia but a spokesman said local availability is being looked at.

An Automated Way of Life

Instead of a person performing tasks like accelerating, braking, turning or changing lanes, an autonomous vehicle uses its sophisticated vehicle computer system to calculate, monitor and perform these everyday driving tasks itself.  Australian governments are working together to make sure that automated/autonomous vehicles can be legally and safely used when they are available for purchase in Australia.  Already today, some new cars have automated features such as self-parking, active cruise control or lane-keep assist.  These features assist the driver with driving, but a licensed human driver is still in control of the car.  Over the next few decades vehicles will likely become increasingly automated, and eventually a human will not need to drive a car at all.  Think of the road network of the future being a giant computer programme that is performing the road transport requirements for the people.

Whether we like it or not, the onset of automated vehicles is upon us.  In fact, in America, automatic road trains/trucks to get goods from one depot to the next is already reality.  Several companies, including Aurora, Daimler, and Embark Trucks, are competing for a slice of the future of self-driving freight trucks.  Waymo is also expanding its own self-driving trucking routes throughout the American Southwest and Texas, following previous tests in Arizona, California, Michigan, and Georgia. This long-haul automated trucking works well in America, and it could be key for Australian trucking companies in the near future.  While most of the current use has been on iron ore and coal mines, the roll-out of autonomous fleets in Australia is spreading.  Newmont, Australia recently announced plans to make the Boddington mine the world’s first open-pit gold mine with an autonomous haul truck fleet.

So maybe the order of automation roll-out might be trucks first along with public transport, and then private vehicles to follow?  The implementation of autonomous vehicles isn’t a cheap dream.  Understandably, the level of research and development, as costly as it is, is so important to ensure all road users remain safe in-and around an autonomous vehicle.  The sort of research and development needed for safety reasons costs loads of money, and this (as always), along with the requirement of actually keeping people safe while implementing the use of autonomous vehicles, are the real brakes on the realization of the dream for complete global autonomous vehicles.  But is that just the tip of the iceberg?

Autonomous vehicles obtain emerging technologies that can potentially disrupt cities, economies, infrastructure and the way we do life together.  Add those truths into the mix and we can see what a phenomenally expensive, chaotic and disruptive new technology this is, but the actuality of total autonomous transport could be astounding!  Not something that’s everyone’s cup of tea but definitely worthy of at least partial implementation.  Maybe that’s the way it is going to be introduced, subtly and gradually over time so people can get used to paying for it as well as using it.