As we first discovered when we finally ditched the P-plates, one of the delights and duties of driving is taking passengers. Sometimes, your passengers are a joy and being their driver is a lot of fun. However, at other times, it’s more of a nightmare, especially with certain passengers.
Here is a rogue’s gallery of the passengers that you probably don’t want to provide driving services for unless you really can’t avoid it (e.g. if one’s your mother or if you’re a professional taxi driver).
One of the main reasons that people purchase a hybrid car is because they want the great fuel economy of an electrical motor matched with the backup and power of a petrol engine. More and more car manufacturers are embracing hybrid technology (including plug-in hybrids) and when they promote their vehicles, one of the features that they love to highlight is the great fuel economy figures. Who doesn’t want to save a few bucks on fuel, after all?
We review all the major news events in the automotive industry from the first quarter of 2017.
Soon to join Ford and Holden among the casualties within the local automotive scene, Toyota announced plans to close its engine casting and manufacturing facilities on October 3 this year. Australian car part manufacturers could be the beneficiaries, with local parts being touted for use in foreign diplomats cars.
#1: Electric Vehicles Put A Huge Drain On The National Grid
OK, there’s no denying that if you’re plugging in an electric car to recharge its batteries, you’re going to use electricity, which means that someone has to generate it. It’s also true that if there’s too much demand on the national grid all at once, then there’ll be problems with “brown-outs” (signalled by lights dipping and flickering when the new load comes on the scene – those who have lived in off-the-grid houses will know all about this). Notice those key words “all at once”? The amount of power demanded by electric vehicles – at least at this stage – is peanuts compared to the demand of air conditioning in summer in the middle of the day, especially during a super-hot summer like the one we’ve been having. In the USA, electric vehicles only account for 10% of the electricity demand. If everybody tried to (a) turn on their air-conditioning in the home and (b) charge their vehicles all at the same time, then yes, this would put too much of a load on the national grid. The answer? Charge your vehicle during off-peak times in the evenings and overnight when industry isn’t calling for as much power and air-conditioning systems aren’t working so hard.
#2: Electric Vehicles Haven’t Got Much Range
Some people are reluctant to purchase an electric vehicle because they have mental images of being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a dead battery and no way to recharge it. It’s true that if you regularly drove long expanses of open road in the middle of nowhere, you could get yourself in a mess. However, most of us aren’t driving around the Outback or around the farm on a regular daily basis: most of us are driving around the city. Most electric cars have a decent range of at least 100 km and some have a lot more. The typical city commute tends to be shorter than this – a lot shorter. Even if you live in a dormitory suburb. On top of this, the 100-km range is at the lower end of battery life and ranges for electric cars these days. The technology is improving as well, and some of the big names in electric vehicles (Tesla, Chevrolet and Nissan) are scheduled to release EVs that can get well over 300 km per charge.
Toyota adds another arrow to its Hybrid quiver with the release of the Corolla Hybrid Hatch, alongside the Camry Hybrid and Prius. It’s priced sharply, from $26990 plus ORCs and packs great value into the car thanks to borrowing features from the top of the range ZR. A Wheel Thing checks out the 2017 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Hatch.Visually, there’s no way to pick the Hybrid from its siblings, until you note the discreet Hybrid badging on the forward flanks and tailgate. It’s otherwise standard Corolla hatch, with a pedestrian friendly bonnet that almost straight line joins the windscreen. The broad swept tail lights have a sharply defined shelf in their diamond shape and are a defining feature of the rear of the car. Joining the front wheel arch and headlights is a swooping bifurcated line that joins to become one at the rear and draws the eyes to the privacy glass for the rear section.Wheels are ten spoke alloys at 16 inches in diameter clad in 205/55 Michelin Energy rubber. The Hybrid also pinches LED DRLs and auto levelling headlights from the ZR.
There’s further ZR touches inside with dual zone airconditioning, Suna traffic updates and satnav, Toyota Link (using a paired smartphone to provide data for onboard apps), and a 4.2 inch full colour LCD display for the driver that provides information including how the energy and drive is approportioned.The Hybrid Hatch is geared towards a better driving experience, with a double wishbone rear suspension, an electronically controlled brake system (that feeds regenerative energy back into the engine system), bigger 296 mm x 28 mm discs at the front as part of that energy recovery. The drive system itself consists of an Atkinson Cycle four cylinder petrol powered engine and a nickel metal hydride battery charged from the regenerative system and the petrol engine. Transmission is what Toyota describes as an E-CVT, an Electronically controlled Constant Variable Transmission.
At 5200 rpm the petrol engine delivers 73 kW and will give 142 torques at 4000 rpm. The specified fuel is 95RON and Toyota quotes 4.1L/3.9L/4.1L per 100 kilometres from the 45 litre tank (combined/urban/highway). In theory, that allows the Corolla Hybrid Hatch to travel somewhere close to 1000 kilometres. Considering a dry weight of 1365 kg and a gross weight of just over 1800 kilos, that seems like a pretty decent range.
The real world begs, however, to disagree.The system is programed for three drive modes: EV, Eco, and Power. Select EV, after getting in, strapping in, and pressing the blue hued Start/Stop button, then move the somewhat counter intuitive drive selector to D (it’s sprung so it will return to a central position by itself), and gently press the accelerator as the Hybrid silently moves off. Unfortunately, no matter how gently you move off, the programming activates the petrol engine at 30 kmh and flashes a warning on the dash screen to say so.
In real terms this effectively neuters the point of having an electically operated system, as from hereon in, the petrol engine is shown to either be directing power to the front wheels or momentarility topping up the battery. Once off the accelerator, the display will show the car is in Eco but still showing the petrol engine as involved. There is a B option on the selector, with that further engaging the brakes for regenerative energy and charges the battery located under a rear pew.Essentially, the petrol engine is constantly supplying a form of power to the drivetrain, rather than allowing the electrical engine to do more work. Yes, you do get kinetic energy fed back into the system but that restriction on where the petrol engine cuts in and continues to partner with the electrical is obvious with the fuel gauge showing a final figure of a quarter full, the trip meter shows 609 kilometres covered, consumption of 5.0L/100 kilometres and the bulk of the travel has been with a sole occupant…When driven with a light right foot, forward motion is…leisurely. A little bit more pressure does increade rapidity whilst a hard launch will get the Corolla to freeway speeds reasonably quickly but, again, at the expense of fuel consumption. What you’ll also get is a very good ride quality, with plenty of comfort, fluency, absorption, with the typical short travel crash and thump from shopping centre car parks, most likely the Corolla’s second most common habitat. On the highway it’s a smooth, mostly quiet ride, with bare hints of wind noise and tarmac rumble.Turn in from the steering is tight, with a ratio that promises just 2.7 turns lock to lock. There’s some numbness in regards to telling the driver about the road and coupled with tyres that never seemed to offer 100% confidence in grip in, admittedly, almost monsoonal conditions at times, there was a seat of the pants feeling of needing to back off a bit more than one would expect would be needed. It’d be interesting to drive the Hybrid in dry conditions to see what the grip level via the seat of the pants really is.In other aspects, the Hybrid Corolla is the same as any other Toyota. It’s loaded with safety features, has the same 3 year or 100,000 kilometre warranty, some very comfortable if basic looking cloth seats front (manually adjusted, by the way) and rear, a dullish looking plastic plate running across the dash, and retro style air vents left and right. The touchscreen itself is typically good Toyota in layout and usage, plus has apps which require a smartphone to be added in order to access.At The End Of The Drive.
From one point of view, it’s a curious thing that Toyota have added a hybrid to its biggest selling range considering there’s three Prius variants to choose from. BUT, the Corolla Hybrid looks like a Corolla and it IS one of the biggest selling cars going. From A Wheel Thing’s point of view, it’s got the green credentials to appeal, especially with that final fuel consumption figure, but lacks the driveability and variety it should have due to the programming restriction of being predominantly petrol, not electrically, motorvated.
To make up your own mind head over to the Toyota website and follow the links under new cars.
Can you believe it’s been two years since the government announced the ‘Instant Asset Write-off” incentive in 2015?
Toyota Australia confirmed recently that the Aurion nameplate will be dropped and replaced by a Back to the Future nameplate. Camry V6, anyone? However, surrounded by a fleet of SUVs and the evergreen Corolla, what’s left in the tank for the base model nameplate, Altise? Private Fleet drives the 2017 Toyota Camry Altise and comes away wondering if it’s time to put this one out to pasture?When Camry first landed on Australian soil, it was a simple five door hatch. That morphed into a sedan and wagon range which, eventually, became a sedan only and gave birth to a renamed V6 version plus sheetmetal changes. That car was called Aurion and graced showrooms for barely a decade. Now Toyota has canned that car, the Camry is left as a large car in a medium car market thanks to its four cylinder powerplant. A 2.5L capacity unit, in base trim it spins out just 133 kilowatts at 6000 rpm and a reasonable but not overwhelming 231 Nm of torque at 4100 rpm. With a dry weight of 1465 kg to pull around plus 70 litres of 91 RON and human cargo, it’s no surprise that Toyota says it’s a 11.1L/100 kilometre consumption figure for its natural environment, the urban jungle. There is a Hybrid system available which, along with the four and V6, will carry over to the imported 2018 spec model.The Camry IS a big car. At 4850 mm long, 1470 mm high and 1835 mm wide, it well and truly takes it up to its classmates in the form of Falcon, Commodore, Sonata, Optima et al, and it really is only the engine that makes it a medium sized car in classification. It’s a proper five seater, rolls on a 2775 mm wheelbase, and has a boot big enough to swallow a couple of golf club carriers with room to spare, at 515L. Inside, there’s two bottle and cup holders up front for driver and passenger, with the rear getting two cup holders and four bottle holders. There’s also Bluetooth audio, standard AM/FM radio and CD (couldn’t find a USB/3.5 mm plug setup though) however the review car was also fitted with DAB. And yes, even the average speakers on board still sounded good for DAB.Interior trim was basic: black cloth, black plastic, manual adjustment for the seats, driver’s window only was one touch Up/Down, a binnacle centre speedo flanked by a tacho and combined fuel level and dial (not digitally) based consumption display. It’s old school in layout for the console, with dials for the aircon temperature and speed but a touch more modern for direction thanks to individual tabs. It’s typical Toyota in that the ergonomics are spot on however it’s a lacklustre look, with no real visual appeal in deference to basic functionality. If there’s a win here, it’s that it looks better than, even though there’s hints of, the dash from the IS series. Another score is the amount of hip/shoulder/leg room on offer.Outside, the Altise differs slightly from its stablemates, the Hybrid, Atara, and RZ, in having globe lit driving lights, not LED, in the left and extremities of the front bumper, plus the spindle design element is not as pronounced. Compared to the superceded model it looks longer, sleeker, wider, especially at the rear with the broadened tail lights, and more purposeful there, however the front has five horizontal bars that lend an almost baleen whale look to the snout. There’s even a change to the C pillar that lengthens the windowline and there’s plenty of glass to give passengers a broad and airy feeling.That 2.5L four and not inconsiderable heft make the Camry a willing if not spirited performer on road. Acceleration is leisurely at best, accompanied by a soundtrack that never gets raucous yet indicates a struggle to really pull. The six speed transmission is smooth enough however had the disconcerting tendency to brake the engine under almost any forms of acceleration. Light throttle, move, gear change, brake, accelerate again…repeated through to medium and most heavy throttle applications. In fact, the only time the car felt as if it had any life was in a hard acceleration from a blind corner, which momentarily had the front driven 215/60/16 tyres from Michelin chirping.Coupled with a not quite en pointe’ steering set up (vague, somewhat disconnected), a suspension set up that has mild tautness up front but with short travel struts that feel as if they’ll rip out over bigger speedhumps, as opposed to a softly sprung rear end that bottoms out just a bit too easily, it’s a dynamics package that’s a bit like burnt porridge for the three bears. Not too hot, not too cold, but no longer just right.
At the time of writing, the Camry Altise petrol had a driveaway price of just of $30K, but was also being offered with a special driveaway price of (from) $27990 with free satnav. There’s also the standard three year warranty or 100,000 kilometre covered, plus up to five low cost, capped price, standard logbook services at $140 for the first 4 years or 75,000km, whichever occurs first. Naturally there’s a full suite of safety systems including seven airbags,
With car parts divided into various categories it’s easy for motorists to become confused. Such categories include genuine, aftermarket, rebuilt, reconditioned, and recycled car parts. As a motorist, it’s important to know about each of them. Inevitably you will choose between these various categories of spare parts to carry out repairs and/or maintenance on your vehicle – or that decision will be made by a mechanic on your behalf. We’ll highlight the considerations and differences for drivers to be aware of.
Genuine and aftermarket car parts are the most commonly selected parts, carrying longer warranty coverage. Repairs conducted through a vehicle manufacturer or their dealer network will often utilise (new) genuine car parts. Independent repairers and mechanics will readily carry aftermarket replacements. While both are sourced new, the key difference is that genuine parts are those specified as the original equipment installed in the vehicle. That is, it is the specific (OEM) part listed in the vehicle’s build specifications.
A couple of days ago, the Dubai police force created a bit of a stir in the automotive world by managing to scoop the Guinness World Record for the fastest police car on the roads: a Bugatti Veyron. With a top speed of 407 km/h and a 0–100 time of 2.5 seconds. The acquisition and fitting of the Veyron as a police car is something of a PR exercise for the Dubai Police; however, it joins some of the other supercars driven by the police in this country, making the United Arab Emirates possibly the country where it’s most fun to be a cop. Others in the Dubai police fleet include a Aston Martin One-77, a Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4, a Ferrari FF and the “humbler”(?) Audi R8 , Nissan GTR and Mercedes SL 63.
Not many of the boys and girls in blue around the world are so lucky. Most of them have to put up with much more mundane machines, albeit with all the extras that cops get to play with, including the lights and sirens.