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Going Hard With Two Doors.

The Australian automotive industry is an oddity in the global scheme of things. A small buying population, the most brands per head of population, and innovations not seen elsewhere, make it virtually unique. Although we weren’t the first to build a car with a hardtop and two doors, we certainly made some great ones. Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Holden all have cars that are memorable and one that stands out was the Monaro 427C.

Designed, engineered, and built in Australia, this car was intended to be a track weapon and race in the Bathurst 24 Hour. The first of these races was set to run in late 2002, meaning the development of the car, slated to run in 2003, had to be brought forward. The heartbeat of the 427C was its US sourced 7.0L or 427cid V8. With the Holden Racing Team turning down the offer of developing the machine, Garry Rogers Motorsport (GRM) took the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R engine, a Monaro body, and the responsibility of running the 427C as a race car.
The car would later be a controversial one; the race would attract cars from outside Australia such as Lamborghini’s Diablo GTR, Ferrari’s 360 N-GT, and the monstrous Chrysler Viper ACR. All of these cars would race with the same engine they would come off the production line with. However, the Monaro at the time came with Chev’s fabled 350cid or 5.7L V8, and therefore would be ineligible to run. However, the organiser of the race, which would come under the umbrella of a racing group called Procar, allowed the Monaro to be run with the bigger engine to be seen as more competitive with capacities such as the 8.0L V10 in the Viper.

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Value Up With Mitsubishi For Best Running Costs.

Mitsubishi has come out on top in a best value study looking at running costs.

According to data issued by the RACV, the Triton GLX in two and four wheel drive configuration, the big Pajero Sport GLX,  the smart-tech Outlander PHEV LS and Mirage ES all recorded the lowest running costs per week in their respective segments. This ensures that the Mitsubishi range extends its value-for-money appeal long after a customer leaves the dealership.

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Hypercars: Basic Fact Cheat Sheet For Sounding Like An Expert

We’ve all heard of supercars.  Now supercars can move over, as there’s a new category on the block: hypercars.  However, they won’t be on the block for long – in fact, they’ll be several blocks away almost before you can blink because these cars are seriously, seriously fast.

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2019 Kia Sorento GT-Line Petrol.

The Kia Sorento has been given a freshen up for 2019, like most of the Kia range. The changes are subtle but effective, with enhancements inside and out. I drove the 3.5L petrol drinking V6 Kia Sorento GT-Line trim, with an eight speed auto and seven seats. It’s priced at $55,490 (RRP) and came in the optional Aurora Black metallic, an extra $595.00. Peak power from the free spinning V6 is 206kW. You’ll need to drive like an F1 driver in training to use it though, as it’s on tap at 6300rpm. More sensible is the torque. There’s 336 of them but again at a high rev point, 5000rpm.

Fuel economy has been vastly improved, even though the engine is a 3.5L, up from the previously used 3.3L. The addition of a slick eight speeder helps as we finished on 8.7L/100km. What’s truly astounding is that the big car (1932kg before fuel and passengers) was driven in a predominantly urban drive loop, reflecting its intended usage. Kia quotes 14.2L/100km from the 71L tank in a urban drive and 10.0L/100km on the combined cycle.

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2019 Volvo XC40 R-Design Launch Edition.

Volvo has come a long way from the boxy look of twenty years ago. Like most other brands they’ve moved into into the SUV market with gusto and their latest, the XC40, was launched here in Australia in May. We drive the top of the range R-Design with Launch Edition packaging.It’s a similar external design to its XC60 and XC90 siblings with one marked difference. There’s a sharp angle to the rear of the XC40 that kinks up from the door. Nope, it doesn’t mean rear seat headroom is compromised. A good six foot plus passenger will fit in there nicely. The R-Design offers a colour combination choice inside and out so here there can be buyer customisation. It’s a classy look in the supplied vehicles white body and black roof combination, LED driving lights in the now classic “Hammer of Thor” design that’s embedded into a LED/bending headlight combination. The signature Volvo tail light clusters are LED lit and both ends look superb at night balancing the LEDs in the doors. Embedded in the bonnet’s shut line on the driver’s side is a small rubber Swedish flag that commemorates the Launch Edition. Factor in LED downlights in the door handles and at night it’s a striking look.Power is provided by a silky smooth 2.0L turbocharged petrol engine mated to a eight speed auto. Peak power is 185kW, that’s at 5500rpm, so it’s the 350Nm of twist that makes this thing work. Yep, it’s a standard amount of torque for this size of engine, but it’s the spread over three thousand revs which really sings. It’s on tap from 1800 to 4800 and meshed with perfect ratios the XC40 R-Design is one of the most usable, driver friendly, cars around. It’s a pity that engines are hidden under a plastic shroud now.The XC40, like most cars now, is a keyless start vehicle. Open the door and the full LCD dash screen lights up, highlights a system checklist, and awaits the driver’s input. Foot on the brake, press the dash mounted starter, and the engines comes to life. Volvo have gone for a rocker gear gear selector, not a traditional gate style. Once the driver realises it’s a forward/backwards motion and the gears selected (Reverse, Neutral, Drive) show in the right hand dash dial, either a press of the electric parking brake or a gentle stab of the go pedal has the XC40 underway.There’s a Stop/Start system fitted and as effective as it is on shutdown, it’s not completely smooth on startup. Each and every time the engine kicked in the car would lurch, even with the brake pedal depressed. It’s a minor but annoying glitch. Ease away and there’s a bare whisper of engine and the faintest slur felt as the eight speeder does its thing. Plant the right hoof and the XC40’s all wheel drive system grips and slingshots the car forward. Volvo quote just 6.4 seconds for the 0-100 km/ sprint and that may be a touch conservative.

There’s three different notes to the XC40 R-Design. A gentle throttle has the machine move along quietly, almost electric car like. Mid throttle and there’s a purr from up front. The transmission is more noticeable in its changes yet as smooth as calm water. Mode three is when the accelerator is used in anger. That purr becomes a muted snarl, a hint of real aggression comes out, and the changes are sharper, snappier, edgier. It’s an assertive feeling and one the XC40 R-Design revels in.

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Mercedes A-Class Arrives For August

Mercedes-Benz have updated their A-Class range and they go on sale here in Australia in August. There’s been quite a few technical additions, a change to the motorvation, and repackaging to provide more room inside. The first model to be released will be the A200, with the A180 and A250 to come before Christmas.

Perhaps, however, the prime attraction is what’s called MBUX. The Mercedes-Benz User Experience is a voice activated and controlled natural language recognition system. The words “Hey Mercedes” are the starting point, and this will allow a driver to speak and enter a navigation destination, select music types or stations, make end end phone calls on the go, send texts, and operate vehicle functions. An AI system will modify the MBUX as it learns the vocal styles of the user/s. You can find out more about it hereA new engine foe the A-Class is the 1.33L, 120kW, 250Nm petrol fed four. That’s mated to a new seven speed auto which is good for a 5.7L/100 kilometre fuel economy (claimed,combined). This is inside a 4419mm length, up from 4299mm. The wheelbase goes to 2729mm, an increase of 30mm from the previous model. Extra width of 16mm and internal repackaging has 9mm and 22mm extra shoulder room front and rear, with 7mm and 8mm extra headroom as well.There’s been a twenty kilo weight reduction, part of which comes from a reduction of the window trimming. This aids visibility all around. Even the boot has been increased, with a new 370L capacity, up 29L.There’s new 18 inch “Aero” alloys, a pair of10.25 inch digital screens that tie in with the MBUX system, keyless start, wireless smartphone charging for compatible handsets, LED headlights, and NTG 6 MB Navigation. Safety levels are huge, with nine airbags on board (front, pelvis side and window bags for driver and front passenger, side bags for rear occupants and knee bag for driver. Mercedes-Benz also add in as standard Active Brake Assist with a semi-autonomous brake function. Active Lane Keep Assist, Active Park Assist with M-B’s Parktronic, and Blind Spot Assist, Traffic Sign Assist, and high quality reversing camera.

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Coping With Car Clutter

You might be scrupulous about washing the outside of your car, and possibly waxing it as well, but what about the inside of the car? If you’re the typical Aussie driver, whether you’re doing the daily commute or the school run, or if you’re a tradie, consultant or sales rep who’s always on the road, it’s all too easy to let the inside of your vehicle get a bit on the cluttered side.

In-car clutter takes a range of forms, from obvious mess and rubbish that you’re going to get around to cleaning up one of these days, through to that spare jumper or raincoat you stashed in the luggage compartment of your hatchback (and another spare raincoat and a puffer jacket and…). And there’s everything else that you’ve put in the glovebox or the centre console because it might be useful at some point.

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Greeted With Raptorous Applause: Ford Ranger Raptor

Anticipation can lead to either joy or disappointment. When it comes to the long anticipated Ford Performance Vehicles Ranger Raptor, so far it’s looking more of the former. Here’s what we know.

Engine: a 2.0L diesel provides peak power of 157kW and 500Nm (1750 – 2000 rpm)and means the Raptor will have plenty of bite, thanks to a bi-turbo system that will drink from a 80L tank. It’s EURO V compliant at 212 gr/km, will be offering a 8.2L/100 km fuel economy for the combined cycle, and see a top speed of 170 km/h. with a 0-100 km/h time of just over ten seconds. Good figures from a 2.3 tonne machine before fuel and passengers. The transmission is a ten speed (yes, ten speed) automatic with ratios picked to ensure quicker shifts and to be as close as possible to the right gear for the throttle setting. It’s good enough for a 2500 kilo towing (braked) figure.Chassis: 283mm of ground clearance, a broader track than the standard Ranger at 1710mm front and rear, and 285/70/17 wheels & BF Goodrich All Terrain rubber, specially made for Raptor, combine with composite material front fenders and a bumper with integrated LED fog lamps to provide an assertive on and off road presence. Turning circle is a tight 12.9 metres. The load tray is 1743mm in length and 1560mm in width on a 5398mm long body. Maximum width is2180mm with the mirrors out.Inside: a bespoke interior with blue stitching, leather highlights and “technical suede” for extra lateral grip, a rejigged look to the instrument bezel, and perforated leather sections on the steering wheel make for a classy cabin environment.Ride and Drive: There’s a Terrain Management System, TMS, which includes a Baja mode. This sharpens up the engine and transmission and blunts the intrusion of the traction control to give a driver a real off-road experience. It’s a pair of Macpherson struts up front and Ford’s tried and true Watts linkage at the rear.Brakes: Plenty of swept area on the discs means plenty of stopping power.332mm x 32mm up front and 332mm x 24mm at the rear meet a 54mm caliper. They’re bolted to Position Sensitive Dampers that provide, at full extension and compression, a higher level of rebound force. Mid range damping force is specifically tuned for comfort during normal driving.

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2018 Kia Picanto GT-Line

What do you do to improve your baby city car? New wheels, some exterior garnishes, additional lighting and a cool exterior colour. What don’t you do to improve your baby city car? Give it more grunt and change the gearbox is what. And that’s exactly what you’ll find with Kia‘s otherwise good looking Picanto GT-Line. Quite frankly it’s a wasted opportunity from the Korean car maker. We’ll cover that off later in more detail.What you do get is the standard 1.25L petrol fed four, a four speed auto, 62 kilowatts and 122 torques at 4000 rpm. Fuel economy is, naturally, great at 5.8L/100 km of normal unleaded for the combined cycle from its 35L thimble. Consider, too, a dry weight of 995 kilos before passengers etc. Kia’s rationalised the Picanto range to a simple two model choice, the S and the GT-Line. If you’re after a manual the S is the only choice. Price for the GT-Line is super keen at $17,290. Metallic paint is a further $520, taking the test car’s price to $17,810.It’s a squarish, boxy, yet not unappealing design, especially when clad in the silver grey the test car has. Called Titanium Silver it’s more of a gunmetal grey hue, and highlighted by red stripes at the bottom of the doors, red rimmed grilles for the airvents and the lower section is splashed with silver around the globe driving lights. The grille itself is full black and the angle of the grille combines with the laid back styling of the headlights (with LED driving lights) to provide an almost Stormtrooper look. At the rear the neon light look tail lights complements the twin pipe exhaust. It’s a cool and funky look.Kia has upped the 14 inch alloys to classy looking eight spoke 16 inchers. Rubber is from Nexen and are 195/45. As a package they look fantastic. Going further is the grip level. For a vehicle that’s a long way off from being a sports car it has some of the most tenacious grip you’ll find under $30K. AWT’s Blue Mountains lair is close to some truly good roads for handling and ride testing. On one particular road, a specific one lane and one direction (downhill) road, the slightly too light steering nevertheless responds to input cleanly and succinctly. Cramming a 2400mm wheelbase inside an overall length of 3595mm helps, as does the low centre of gravity. It’s a throttle steerer too; come into a turn and back off, let the car make its own way and feel the nose run slightly wide. Throttle up and the nose settles, straightens, and all is good with the world. Body roll is negligible and direction changes are executed quickly, Braking from the 254mm and 236mm front and rear discs is rapid, stable, and quick.Ride quality from the Macpherson strut front and torsion beam rear is delightful for the most part. It does lend towards the taut and tight side and that could also be attributed to the lower profile rubber. Yet it’s never uncomfortable in normal and everyday usage. Hit some ruts or ripples and it’s here that the Picanto GL-Line gets flustered. The short travel suspension will kick back at the chassis and the car will, momentarily, become unsettled. On the flat it’s composed and will provide a comfortable enough ride but with any undulations may get a little choppy thanks to the short wheelbase.It’s on overtaking or uphill climbs that the drive-line shows its Achilles heel. Kia seems to be the only car maker that has stayed with a transmission so archaic and out of step with the industry. For both versions of the Picanto, as much as many loath them, a CVT would be a better option. For the GT-Line, and emphasis on the GT, a turbo engine such as those found in the Suzuki range or even Kia’s own tech would be a better option. Although our test drive finished on a commendable 6.6L/100 km, an extra cog or two would help that and make the Picanto a far more enjoyable car to drive.Inside, too, could do with a lift. Although there’s piano black door inserts with hints of red striping, and red highlights on the driver and passenger seats, the rest of the cabin, complete with Cadillac tail-light inspired air vents, lacks real cache compared to the opposition. Considering its size there’s adequate room up front, barely enough for the rear seats, and a 255L cargo space over a space saver tyre that’s fine for two people shopping wise. All good however the standard all black theme would greatly benefit from strategically placed dabs of colour.However, there’s an Audi style touchscreen mounted on the upper dash edge. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are on board but satnav isn’t, meaning you’ll need the smartphone connection for guidance. It’s AM/FM only, so misses out on DAB. The 7 inch screen is clean and user friendly, as is the driver’s view. Simple and unfussed designs work best and here Kia has nailed that. Two dials, speed, engine revs, fuel level and engine temperature. Simple. A centred monochrome info screen with information made available via tabs on the steering wheel. Simple.Small in size the Picanto GT-Line may be but it doesn’t lack for tech. AEB or Autonomous Emergency Braking is standard, as are Euro style flashing tail lights for the ESS or Emergency Stop Signal. Add in six airbags, vehicle stability management, Forward Collision Warning, and it’s pretty well covered. It does miss out on Blind Spot Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert though, but rear sensors are on board. This is all backed by Kia’s standard seven year warranty and fixed price servicing that will cost just $2552 over seven years.


At The End Of The Drive.

The Kia Picanto and the 2018 Kia Picanto GT-Line represent astounding value. Consider a RRP of $17,810 plus on roads, a decent set of safety features, and that could be better than it is fuel economy, and it’s a walk up start for anyone looking for a city car that’s a good looker, a sweet handler, and will have enough room for a average shop for one or two people. Our shop for four filled the boot and required only a bag or two to be relocated to the back seat.Kia’s Picanto is a very good car, but a real need for change in the engine and transmission would make it better. Yes, it’s economical but could be better. Drive one and make up your own mind or have a look here 2018 Kia Picanto info to find out more.

German Odds And Ends: VW Crafter Van & Audi TT

They’re the lifeblood of the small courier driver business, of the larger postal delivery services. LCVs or Light Commercial Vehicles come in various shapes and forms, including the van. There’s plenty to choose from and Volkswagen has just made that choice even more difficult.

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