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Archive for February, 2016

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Subaru WRX Premium CVT

To get an idea of the WRX, click here: for a more indepth view of Subaru’s 2016 WRX, in manual, entry level, form.2016 Subaru WRX Premium CVT profile 2jpgThis will be a brief review of the CVT equipped as there’s really just a few notable differences between the basic manual and Premium CVT tested. As both transmissions are available in both models, we’ll start with the CVT (engines are the same).2016 Subaru WRX Premium CVT engineThe CVT is programmed with eight distinct shift points, operated by the gear selector or paddleshifts on the steering column. If left alone, it works fine and hand in hand with the turbo four’s performance, with that shove in the back coming in at 2500 revs launching the car forward at a stratospheric rate. Subaru’s official 0-100 kmh time is 6.3 seconds, just 0.3 seconds slower than the manual. Consumption of 95 RON gogo juice was rated at 8.6L/100 km combined, 11.9L/100km city and 6.7L/100 km highway.2016 Subaru WRX Premium CVT dashUsing the manual change, there’s a sense of real urgency you don’t get with the self driven option, with response to the gear change and forward motion being much, much more rapid. In that peak torque rev range, it’s a tractable, flexible, almost think and it’s done, car to drive.
From Reverse to Drive, there’s the usual wait for the gearbox’s internals to decide what it’s going to do, a downside of the way a CVT works.2016 Subaru WRX Premium CVT profile 1

Externally the two are the same, down to the same sized wheel/tyre combo, lip spoiler at the rear and flared, meaty, guards. Inside, there’s leather look, perforated but non heated/ventilated seats (power operated for the driver), a sunroof, the bigger touchscreen for the navitainment systen and the cruise control safety system, EyeSight. It’s a comfortable office to be in and leaves a driver relatively fresh after an extended run.2016 Subaru WRX Premium CVT rear right2016 Subaru WRX Premium CVT profile 3The dash dials in the Premium auto are the same, there’s two USB ports in the front end of the centre console, instead of one, no rear aircon vents, no memory seating but there is Blind Spot monitoring, Pandora audio streaming, the surprisingly lacklustre Harman Kardon audio, auto dimming rear vision mirror, Lane Change Assist, Smart Key start and the vastly handy left hand side rear vision camera for reversing.2016 Subaru WRX Premium CVT front seatsRide wise, the car provided seemed to have a softer rear end than the manual, to the point it hit the bumpstops on the larger speed control bumps found locally. This, at the speed appropriate for these things, which raised the question of why this car bottomed out but the manual didn’t. Apart from that oddity, handling, braking etc were identical.2016 Subaru WRX Premium CVT front2016 Subaru WRX Premium CVT front left2016 Subaru WRX Premium CVT rear right 2The Wrap.
The auto makes sense around town for those that dislike being involved in driving a car, but it’s also a very good highway bruiser. A Wheel Thing saw a best consumption figure of 8.8L/100km in mainly urban highway, not country highway driving. Naturally, there’s the same warranty, service and safety ratings the manual gets, so depending on your preference to drive with two or three feet, and if the extra touches the Premium does get tickles you, then spend the extra coin (pricing can be found at the Subaru website). Either way, that two litre engine is a ripper and that’s the heart of the WRX legend.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Subaru WRX Manual

Take a two litre capacity petrol engine, use your entry level seda, whack on a hairdryer, do a spot of suspension work and find the largest hole in the bonnet that’s legal, go rallying and boom! you have one immediately immensely popular car. That’s what Subaru did in the 1990s and thus was born the WRX.
Fast forward to 2016 and A Wheel Thing resamples the legend, with the entry level model WRX, complete with six speed manual, edgy styling, and fire engine “Pure Red” paint, with a family trip to NSW’s south coast via the nation’s capital.2015 Subaru WRX ManualIt’s the now familiar two litre boxer engine, sans the firecracker red paint on the intake system the STi receives but with a plastic shroud that the STi doesn’t get. The selling point is the torque, of which more will be discussed soon….but it’s the almost mandatory 350 torques, from 2400 to 5200 rpm. That mesa of oomph was so very handy in the drive…peak power comes in just after the torque gently rolls off, with 197 kilowatts being spun out at 5600 revs. Transmission in the car, the “entry”model, was a six speed manual.2015 Subaru WRX Manual main dashThe old saying “Bad news travels fast” was apt with this particular car. Although built in mid 2015, it had the gear shift feel of a ten year old vehicle. It lacked the precise, machined, movement of the STi, with no real weight and a somewhat notchy feel into the gate. A fair explanation would be to say the springs that normally tension a manual gear shift’s lever had none. Tension, that is.

The gate is also wider than that found in the STi, it felt, so any “sporting changes” were initially up to more luck than design. Yet, once some time had been spent with the WRX, familiarity with the movement’s foibles made such things closer to instinctive than expected. The clutch is suitably weighty, without excessive heaviness, and the pickup point does allow for smooth changes, with no jerkiness.

Road noise on coarse chip surfaces was intrusive, with a constant, overbearing, roar into the cabin, making normal level conversation almost impossible and requiring the single CD audio system to be wound up. Around town that may not be too much of an issue but on a long country drive, with a couple of hundred kilometres worth of it, it’s wearisome.2015 Subaru WRX Manual engineWhat isn’t wearisome is the WRX’s ability to reel in traffic on the long straight roads between Canberra and the coast. That 350 Newton metres of torque, right where the rev range is at highway speeds and covering 3000 revs, imbues the WRX with an effortless ability to pass, quickly and safely, slower traffic. A simple flex of the right foot has the revs rise, the speedo swinging round and the cars blurred into insignificance. Safely.2015 Subaru WRX Manual profile 1The brakes are standard, but there’s no issue with their ability. They haul the WRX (complete with four passengers and luggage) up gently, smoothly, firmly, appropriately, depending on pedal pressure. On long downhill curves, a gentle squeeze had the red rocket generating a slow retardation, gently tugging the nose into line. Under heavy braking the WRX was polite in its straightness, with no discernible deviation left or right.2015 Subaru WRX Manual profile 3Dive and squat was there, but only just, thanks to the sports suspension that is still taut but not quite as much so as the STi. There’s still a considerable measure of crash and bumpthump, as you’d expect, however the upside is the lack of float on some very undulating roads. It’s a well tied down car, with a rise and fall and that’s it, no continued motion. On some flat (and noisy) highway sections, the suspension (MacPherson struts and wishbones) almost had the WRX feeling as if it was skidding across the top of ruts, yet without losing grip from the 245/40/18 Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres, on ten spoke alloys.2015 Subaru WRX Manual wheelIt’s a fantastic highway driver, with precise steering and the ability to follow the line the driver sees ahead on the road. Going down Brown Mountain, a ten kilometre descending stretch of exceptionally tight turns, chicanes and a helluva view across the Bega Valley, rarely is fourth gear used as the tiller is tipped rapidly left and right and the car responds almost as if the front is hard wired to your hands. A dab on the brakes, the road’s centreline to the right, and the front right wheel is almost glued to it.2015 Subaru WRX Manual dashThere’s cruise control as standard, to boot, which was engaged on the longer and straighter sections. Highway speeds have the engine ticking over at around 2500 rpm, hence that slingshot accelaration on overtaining. Fuel economy ended up with a best of 7.6L/100 km using the specified 98 RON unleaded, a little ways off Subaru’s claimed 7.1L/100 km for the highway…bearing in mind the car WAS loaded with four people and a sizeable cargo.2015 Subaru WRX Manual front cabinAs the provided car was the entry level model of a two model range, there were a few things missing, such as Auto headlights and heated seating. Although the seats, as comfortable as they were and allowing for the manual, not electric adjustment, were cloth covered, there was no breathing, leaving the passengers sweaty. Given the workload a driver can be under, ventilation for the seats should be mandatory.

There’s also only one USB slot,next to the 3.5 mm auxiliary point, in the front, an odd equipment choice given even the STi gets two and the Impreza S gets four. Given the ideal family attitude the WRX has, it’s an oversight.2015 Subaru WRX Manual rear cupholdersInterior trim is subdued, for the most part, with splashes of alloy look plastic and alloy sports pedals, red lighting for the dash’s sports look dials, a fold out cupholder where the STi has rear passenger air vents, fingerprint attracting piano black plastic around the touchscreen (which is sans satnav) and the same dullish looking plastic trim on the upper dash and doors. There’s also the split info screens top centre which offers the usual Subaru info such as fuel consumption, settings (when the car is stationary) and more. 2015 Subaru WRX Manual rear cabinThe exterior is a little less extroverted than the STi, lacking the painted Brembo brake callipers and the massive rear deck lid wing, instead being garnished with a lip spoiler. The body does get the pumped out body panels, bonnet scoop and LED tail lights the STi has plus the more assertive looking eagle eye headlight design over the front bumper. Access to the 440L boot is, oddly, only available via the keyfob, a button inside or by dropping the 60/40 split fold seats…yep, no button on the boot lid itself. Again, an oversight that makes no sense.2015 Subaru WRX Manual rear 12015 Subaru WRX Manual front leftSafety wise, there’s the usual swag of driver aids, including one that is somewhat unheralded, Hill Start Assist, which came in mightily handy in the hillier parts of the drive. Essentially it’s a braking system that holds the brakes for a moment or so after engaging first gear, allowing the driver to move forward without (hopefully) rolling backwards. However, Subaru’s forward collision alert system, EyeSight, is not here, being available in the Premium model only, as are the satnav and Harman Kardon audio.2015 Subaru WRX Manual profile 2A Wheel Thing ventured from the lower Blue Mountains to Bega, via Canberra. Including some running around, total distance covered over four days was 1187 kilometres, using just a tank and a half. The mix of long roads, sweeping curves and that on tap torque is what contributed to that 7.6L/100, which came late on the fourth day after effectively refusing to move from 7.8. 2015 Subaru WRX Manual BegaThere’s room for four, comfortably, thanks to the 4595 x 1795 x 1475 mm dimensions and 2650 mm wheelbase; a carpeted boot (460 litres) which didn’t struggle to hold a family’s wares and the level of tech on the non Premium model is enough for most. Thankfully, both can be chosen with either manual or the CVT, a gearbox that works far better with the WRX’s engine than the standard and somewhat lacking in character 2.0L engine in the Impreza.

Warranty wise, a buyer gets the three years/unlimited kilometre package plus Subaru’s crash assistance service, which you hope will not be needed. What the buyer does get is one helluva car. There’s grunt, performance, handling, style and verve, from the WRX and it’s a more than able addition to the legend.

As always, a big thanks to Subaru Australia for their support. For info, click here: Subaru WRX informationprivate_fleet_logoBehind the Wheel - widget ad final

New Auto Tech

Cars are evolving quicker than they have ever before, and it’s exciting times for the automobile enthusiast.  Innovation and key ideas are rapidly changing the way we do cars.  Boasting newer technology to make cars faster, safer, more interactive and more economical can be mostly put down to the evolution in computer technology.  However, there are other amazing ways to advance the functions of a motor car.

The Engine Control Unit (ECU) was a bit of computer technology that found its way into the automobile back in the 1970s.  Back then the ECU controlled the fuel mix, making cars more economical and more powerful.  Now, the ECU provides other stuff like: performance mapping for the engine, fuel efficiency, traction control, automatic night driving lights, activating aerodynamic aids, activation of the windscreen wipers, active safety aids like dynamic stability control and more.

The addition of computerized safety features like lane change warning systems, parking aids and even cruise control with automatic braking is making the task of driving much safer.

BMW’s i8 can be connected to your smartphone, which will show information about the car’s efficiency mapping and battery status.  There are a number of cars that you can buy that will even turn on the climate control function, at your command while you’re inside the home or office, before you get into the car on a cold morning.

The Ford C-Max Solar Energi is a tiny people carrier designed by Ford.  This little car is the first of its kind to capture the sun’s energy and store or use it.  With a roof-mounted solar cell, the unit can gather and store energy, making it the perfect environmentally friendly car.  Solar energy is the ultimate for powering your drive.

Another expanding area of auto technology that is advancing is the connectivity features inside a car.  New connectivity functions include being able to send and receive texts, tweets and face-book messages through the car’s automated voice system.  Checking the weather forecast and streaming your favourite playlists through your car’s audio speakers can easily be done while you’re manoeuvring your way through the traffic.  If you’re a parent of a teenager who has borrowed the car, you can now track the car’s progress via a smartphone app.

Driver smartphone apps are set up to monitor the driver’s heartbeat and stress levels while driving the vehicle.  A clever app can be used to monitor glucose levels in a diabetic driver.  Significant changes in the blood-sugar levels are alerted to the driver so that a correction can be made before the driver does any further driving.

Wireless technology is evolving to the point that vehicle-to-vehicle communication can be used to reduce traffic accidents and congestion.  Volvo’s new XC90 models feature automatic brake technology where the XC90 will use radar detection and apply the brakes if an imminent collision is detected.  The driver doesn’t even have to make the car brake, as the XC90 does it all – thus avoiding an accident.  Queue Assist is another XC90 feature, where the car uses radars to slowly follow the vehicle in front, steering and braking automatically to keep directly behind the leading car.

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Are there any other cool new features that you know about?  Let us know.