As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Cloth Versus Leather

There are two main choices these days when it comes to what the interior designers of new cars put on the seats: cloth and leather. Leather is definitely the material of choice for luxury cars, but if you ever find yourself in a situation where one of the key differences between two variants is what’s on the seats, is it really worth it going for the leather just because it’s posher?  If you’re into keeping up with the Joneses, then this one’s a no-brainer – you go for the more expensive one with the leather – but what if you’re a bit cannier with your cash?

Thankfully, the days of vinyl have gone, so that’s not an option. Those of us who are old enough to remember vinyl seats or who have ridden in classics with this type of upholstery know perfectly well why vinyl seats aren’t found in modern vehicles.  About the only good thing you could say about vinyl was that it was easy to clean. It was slippery when cold or if you had long trousers on. In hot weather and for those wearing shorts, vinyl became sticky but not like spilt jam – more like clingfilm on steroids grabbing bare skin.  It also got really hot on a summer day – add in the hot seat belt buckle on old-style seatbelts and you got your very own personal torture chamber.  I’m shuddering with the memory.

Click Here to Read More

Ford Eyes Off A New Level Of Focus.

The all-new 2019 Ford Focus range has been developed from the ground up to provide the most confidence-inspiring, intuitive, rewarding, driving and occupant experience for Australian customers. The all-new Focus has AEB or Autonomous Emergency Braking as standard across the range. Also known as Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection technology, the system can detect people in or near the road ahead, or who may cross the vehicle’s path. In addition, Focus goes even further with the system’s capability to detect cyclists as well as function in the dark using light from the headlamps.

Ford has also engineered a new-generation, highly efficient 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine and 8-speed paddleshift automatic transmission. They are standard on every new Focus. With significant improvements in fuel economy, thanks to advanced materials and weight reduction, the new powertrain also ensures drivability with greater power and torque. An integrated exhaust manifold that improves fuel-efficiency by helping the engine reach optimal temperatures faster, and delivers torque more rapidly by minimising the distance exhaust gasses travel between the cylinders and turbocharger. Power is rated at 134kW, with torque 240Nm at a very useable 1600rpm.

Click Here to Read More

Hyundai Gets Fastback For The i30 N

Hyundai has revealed the new 2019 i30 Fastback N in Europe. The sophisticated five-door Fastback N is the second high-performance model from Hyundai’s N Performance division, following on from its sibling the i30 N hot-hatch, which arrived in Australia in March to critical acclaim. The Hyundai i30 Fastback N incorporates many of the design signatures of its hatchback sibling. The elegant i30 Fastback shape has been merged with the dynamic features of the i30 N five-door, such as the dynamic-looking N Grille, and N front and rear bumpers, both highlighted by a red character line. A blacked-out side sill further underscores the model’s sportiness.The new 2019 i30 N Features the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine first introduced in the i30 N hatchback. Like the i30 hot-hatch, the Fastback N is offered in Europe in both Standard and Performance iterations. The Standard Package engine delivers 184kW and uses 7.0L/100km on the official combined cycle. The Performance Package engine generates a maximum power of 202kW and uses 7.1L/100km on the official combined cycle.

The engine delivers a maximum torque of 353 Nm in both specifications. An overboost function further increases torque up to 378Nm and is activated when the maximum torque threshold is reached. The European i30 Fastback N with Standard Package accelerates from rest to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds and the i30 Fastback N Performance Package version accelerates from 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds. The i30 Fastback N is capable of a maximum speed of 250 km/h. The i30 Fastback N’s rear visual features a twin-muffler exhaust and a cohesive rear spoiler that flows neatly into the line of the liftback. A glossy black accent is inserted to highlight the spoiler and further develop the N performance theme.The horizontal design theme of the i30 Fastback N instrument panel conveys an elegant impression and is offered in Europe with a choice of two infotainment systems. There is a Display audio system with an eight-inch capacitive LCD touchscreen, an integrated rear-view camera and Bluetooth connectivity.

Click Here to Read More

2019 MG ZS Essence SUV

A new brand for our review section  is MG. MG itself is Morris Garages, once a name held in the same regard as Lotus and Caterham thanks to its sporty range of little two seater sports cars. However that link to the British history is about all that is left. The company is now owned by Chinese conglomerate SAIC and the brand’s range itself is a long way from the sporty little two seaters that made the company a household name. There are four models available, the MG6 sedan, MG3 SUV, MG GS SUV, and the range topping MG ZS SUV, with two trim levels. We drive the 2019 MG ZS Essence, complete with panoramic “Stargazer” glass roof, six speed DCT, and a 1.0L turbocharged three cylinder.The pair starts with the 1.5L four speed Excite, and at the time of writing was on a special drive-away price of $22,990. The Essence is currently on $25,990. The three potter has that familiar thrum peculiar to three cylinder engines, and delivers 82kW @ 5200rpm, and 160Nm between 1800 to 4700rpm. Although that’s a great spread of revs it’s got to pull, via the front wheels, a 1245kg machine, plus fuel, plus passengers. This immediately puts the ZS on the back foot in overall driveability, with performance noticeably blunted with four aboard, compared to a single passenger. The engine comes paired with a six speed DCT, or dual clutch transmission, and makes a good fist of it here. It’s mostly smooth, bar the typical DCT stutters between Reverse and Drive, and at speed was quiet and almost seamless in changing.

The weight and lack of torque is dealt with by judicious use of the accelerator. Rather than punching the go pedal, a firm and progressive squeeze yields better results from a standing start. Revs climb willingly, the cogs shift appropriately, and the economy hovers around 8.0L/100km. MG quotes a combined cycle of 6.7L/100km and a city cycle of 8.4L/100km. In a purely city based environment that in itself sounds good but the ZS has just 48L in the tank, and after just shy of 500 kilometres of travel the tank needed a quick top up on the way back to its home base. MG also specify 95RON too, which makes for slightly more expensive attack on the hip pocket.

Click Here to Read More

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Toyota Kluger Grande and GXL.

In a previous life, I attended the Perth launch of a newcomer to the Toyota family. Called Kluger, it was a squarish, slightly blocky, petrol only, mid-sized SUV. Fifteen plus years later the Kluger remains petrol only, still has a squarish and blocky design, and not far off in size of the Land Cruiser. AWT spent a week with the top of the range Grande and mid-level GXL, with the Grande seeing the countryside whilst the GXL did what it’s designed for. The urban lifestyle run. There’s a big price difference though, with the GXL in the mid $50K range and a huge $10K less than the Grande.The standard engine is a 3.5L V6, producing 218kW, and a surprising 350 torques. Surprising because, in context, it’s the same amount as that produced by a turbo-charged 2.0L petrol engine. As a result, urban fuel economy is less that inviting, with the GXL not seeing a figure below 11.0L per 100km at any stage. The Grande is a different story; the dash display didn’t appear to show a consumption figure however we managed a reasonable half tank from the lower Blue Mountains to Cooma. This consumption stayed consistent from Cooma to Bega, back to Cooma, and then Sydney.Sole transmission option is an eight speed auto. In the GXL this drives the front wheels and the Grande is an AWD system, driving the fronts but splits torque rearward on demand. The driver’s dash screen shows this in a graphic, and it’s kinda interesting to watch from the eye’s corner when starting forward, be it a hard or soft launch. The Grande suffers in comparison to the GXL in this area. When punched the GXL will move with a decent measure of alacrity and will chirp the front tyres. The GXL around town also has a slightly better ride, with a more supple appeal thanks to the slightly higher sidewalls. The Grande is sluggish off the line, with a feeling of needing more effort to have both front and rear wheels gripping. The eight speed auto in both is…..adequate, to be polite. Cold they were indecisive off the line, and when warmed up were somewhat archaic in their change feel. Think the early four or five speed autos when one cog was finished and there was a yawning gap until the next one engaged. An exaggeration of sorts, yes, but needed to paint the picture.The weapon of choice for the six hour country drive was the Grande over the Holden Calais Tourer. According to the junior team members of the review team it was the roof mounted blu-ray player (complete with SD card input) that won the contest. There are four wireless headphones and they sound fantastic. The screen itself, naturally, isn’t blu-ray quality but the fact Toyota offers that kind of playback is a bonus. Having rear aircon and the controls at the rear of the centre console is also a bonus as the controls are both fan speed and temperature independent of the front seats. The middle seat rows are tilt and fold which allows access to the simple pull-strap operated third row seats. Or one could enter via the power operated tailgate. The Grande has an extra family friendly feature for those that use wireless charging smartphones too. Adding to the family persuasion is a plethora of cup and bottle holders throughout the cabin plus a DAB or digital audio broadcast tuner. The latter had an oddity in that it would pick up signal in areas some other cars don’t but when it lost signal it was almost painfully slow to regain it.

Actual fit and finish in the Klugers is starting to lack visual appeal. The dash design is somewhat chaotic with blocks rather than an organic look. Somehow, after a while, it seems to work. Of note is the centre of driver’s binnacle info screen. In typical Toyota fashion it’s initially a little confusing to look at, but once a few flicks of the tabs on the tiller have been performed, the info such as which safety aids are being used or how much traction is being apportioned, becomes easily accessible instinctively. Powered seats make finding the right seating position to read the screen easy, and in the Grande they’re both heated and vented via a pair of utterly simple to use roller dials. They’re coloured red and blue left and right of the centre point and have three settings to choose from. The GXL ditches the venting and goes to slightly less attractive roller dials to activate the heating side.The actual driving position is comfortable in the seats but the tiller felt a bit narrow to the fingers. All round view is very good and with broad side mirrors the Blind Spot Alert system was almost not needed. Almost. On the highway heading east from Cooma to Bega, some of the roads narrow and there are opportunities for a lack of safety of this form to lead to issues thanks to drivers that believe themselves to be better than they are. Suffice to say the Blind Sport Alert system can be a life saver. Safety wise there’s really not a lot between the Grande and GXL, with Toyota‘s Safety Sense. Pedestrian friendly collision warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Lane Departure Alert, and seven airbags are aboard.The Grande turned out to be a decent country tourer. Under way and at cruising speed, it ticks over at the freeway speed at close to 2,000rpm. Toyo supplies the (specially supplied for Kluger Grande) Open Country 245/55/19 rubber on the Grande and Michelin the 245/60/18s for the GXL. Both exhibit a sometimes uncomfortable measure of road noise, especially on the coarser chip surfaces south of Canberra. The dearth of torque at low revs was always apparent though. That peak amount is at 4700rpm, and it was enough at times to feel the gearbox move to seventh to eighth to seventh in order to try and utilise what was available. It was also noticeable when uphill runs or an overtake were required, with a steady drop through the ratios. On the road the steering was never comfortable though, with a somewhat numb on-centre feel and with more weight than expected. However it doesn’t tax the body and with a stop every two hours or so, a driver can exit the car feeling a bare minimum of driving fatigue.The exterior design is also starting to look out of date in comparison to both Toyota’s own design ethos and in respect to the opposition. It’s still a squarish, angular look, which at least matches the dash. The front features an inverted triangular motif and isn’t overly chromed. Eagle-eye headlights with LED driving lights balance a similar look at the rear. Alongside the latest from Korea the Klugers look heavy, tired, and nowhere as slippery.The Klugers also come with just a three year or 100,000 kilometre warranty, another area that other companies are rapidly changing. Roadside assistance is a 24/7 owner service, however.

Click Here to Read More

SUV, Hatch or Wagon?

SUVs like the Volvo XC40 look really cool!

 

Click Here to Read More

Audi Unveils The e-Tron

Audi has unveiled the e-Tron in a webcast from California. Focusing on the design element, price, and the extensive charging network that Audi and its business partners have and will invest in, the e-Tron, Audi’s Tesla challenger, is available now to order online in the US. Audi have also partnered with global retail giant Amazon in what is currently a unique move, allowing one stop at home charging via the Amazon Alexa smart-home device.An energy recuperation system is expected to harvest up to 90% of the battery’s usable capacity to power the vehicles twin electric engines. Quick charging for the 95 kW/h battery provides up to 150kW or 80% from empty in around thirty minutes. A zero to 60mph time of the 5.5 second mark has been quoted also. Driving range won’t be an issue although Audi didn’t confirm expected range. With a raft of charging stations available throughout the US on major roads, connecting and recharging from the west to east coast won’t be an issue. With the immediate competition offering figures between 240 to 295 miles of range, an extensive network will alleviate range anxiety.

The e-Tron is based on the Q series of AWD vehicles, features the signature Audi grille which will have a platinum hue to signify Audi’s electric intentions, and will start in the USD$74K range. It also means that visually they are immediately more relatable, in an electric car sense, to buyers familiar with the Audi styling. Interior styling should be “standard” Audi with the multi-media and virtual cockpit fitments. There will be a pair of large screens for the centre section of the dash, with a 10 inch and 8.6 inch screen for satnav/entertainment, and climate control usage. With the driver having the Virtual Cockpit it means most conventional tabs and buttons have been removed. Autonomous driving will be on board but to a level that still requires human input. A Comfort and Sport mode is programmed to have the semi-autonomous factor as well. A panoramic roof and four zone climate control are standard. The much talked about digital mirrors will come later.Audi have provided the e-Tron with a signature look up front. Alongside the stylish grille are new four bar LED driving lights that blend well into the overall Audi styling. And the rear is standard Audi as well, with a clean and uncluttered design.

Click Here to Read More

A Danger In Safety.

Evolution is a part of our lives and nowhere more evident than in the growth and change to the humble horseless carriage. From an open cabin with a tiny horsepower or two, to nimble sports cars and big four wheel drives, there’s been plenty of changes to witness.

Steam power came and went, electricity is back in vogue, and the fuel we use is still dinosaur based but fed to the engine under pressure, not sucked in by the sweep of a crankshaft.

Click Here to Read More

2019 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport 2.0L

The Toyota Corolla‘s recent update provides an option of a hybrid drivetrain featuring a 1.8L petrol engine and battery power, or a non-assisted 2.0L petrol engine. The range is fitted with a revamped CVT with launch gear (2.0L engine only), and it’s the 2.0L engine that makes a better fist of this combination. The engine is available across the new three model range and it’s that inside the Ascent Sport that we’ve has tested.The CVT has a feature called Direct Shift, a mechanical ratio that assists greatly, in the case of the 2.0L, in getting the Corolla off the line swiftly. Compared the the hesitancy that the 1.8L/battery system has the 2.0L is a far better proposition. There’s instant response, and forward motion is rapid to say the least. There’s no excess in economy either, with a constant 4.9L to 5.2L per 100km being seen on the econometer. That’s better than the quoted combined figure from Toyota of 6.0L/100km. The CVT feels more alive, more connected, and engages the driver on a higher level than the hybrid. Having better power and torque goes a long way to helping that. 125kW versus 72kW. 200Nm versus 142Nm.Handling is, oddly, also seat of the pants better even with a smaller wheel. They’re 205/55/16s on the Ascent Sport, with the roundy bits from Dunlop’s Enasave range. There’s occasional chirping from the tyres when pushed hard but otherwise there’s a real sense of fun and verve in the way the whole chassis holds together on road. There’s a touch of understeer when pushed hard yet it’s otherwise tenacious in every way. Straight line ride quality is subtly more comfortable, with less than flat roads made to feel pancake like.

The interior is closer to the SX too, with cloth seats, a slightly less visually appealing look and feel to the plastics, but still not without a decent comfort level though. DAB audio features and the tuner is better than that found in the Kia Cerato recently reviewed for sensitivity. There’s a good level of standard kit including driver aids and safety equipment including Toyota’s Lane Trace Assist and Lane Departure Alert with steering assist.Like the ZR and SX as tested and reviewed recently, the exterior has also been given a make over. The front end has been sharpened with a harder edged style to each side of the headlights, with the rear mirroring that. The outer edge swoops down at the front while the rear has a more heavily defined crease line forming something akin to an “X” look, drawing a line from a bumper crease through to an extended inwards tail light motif. The rear window is laid forward by an extra fourteen degrees and the triangular rear pillar is gone, replaced by a more traditional arch look. It’s a distinctive look that builds upon the revamp from a couple of years ago.

Click Here to Read More

Yes, Virginia (Fanpetals), There Is A New Biofuel Feedstock On The Block

Sida hermaphrodita or Virginia Fanpetals: a new player in the biofuel game.

When it comes to biofuels, especially the sort of biofuel that gets used for ethanol, there’s always a bit of an issue.  You see, it kind of defeats the purpose of having a sustainable fuel source if you have to pour on truckloads of fertiliser (a lot of which can come from petrochemicals as well) and tons of water.  It’s also rather frowned on if the crop in question takes away land from something that could be used for growing crops that people are going to eat directly (as vegetables, flour, cooking oil, sugar, etc.) or indirectly (after a fodder crop has been fed to animals that produce milk, meat or eggs).

Click Here to Read More